Shape Memory Alloy Driven Whole Skin Locomotion


We intend to experimentally examine the feasibility of whole skin locomotion (WSL) through the posterior contraction of an elongated fluid filled torus (FFT). Whole skin locomotion “works by way of an elongated toroid, which turns itself inside out in a single continuous motion, effectively generating the overall motion of the cytoplasmic streaming ectoplasmic tube in amoebae.”[1] In WSL, the entire exterior of the torus moves in the same direction. This is a significant because it allows any surface the torus comes into contact with, top, bottom, or side, to be used to propel the torus forward. Us

This project was performed by Junwon Lee, Cameron Wierzbanowski, and Harrison Young. We are all students at Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering.

Criteria For Success

Our goal is to develop a prototype of a WSL driving mechanism that uses shape memory alloy (SMA) contractile rings to invert an FFT. While the feasibility of such SMA mechanisms have been examined using finite element analysis [9], we are not aware of any functional prototypes. We hope the success of this project will ignite greater interest in WSL platforms among the academic community.


We hope to produce a proof-of-concept prototype capable of reliably rolling forward. The team will also evaluate the speed and power consumption of the drive system. These metrics will be used to identify potential improvements and prototype feasibility.