A Cockroach You May Actually Be Grateful To See

By Meera Dolasia on September 23, 2012

CCSS NAS-3 Word Search

Mention the word 'cockroach' in a room full of people and you will see it empty it out in no time at all. However, if some scientists are right, this very same pest that we have all come to despise and fear, may soon prove to be our savior in the aftermath of natural disasters.

North Carolina State University's Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering, Alper Bozkurt and his team were looking for a way to help rescue people trapped inside the rubble of collapsed buildings during natural disasters like earthquakes. However, instead of creating a completely electronic robot they decided to build a biological robot (biobot) using off-the-shelf electronics and an insect that is known to survive in almost any kind of environment, can squeeze through the tiniest of crevices and, has the ability to think for itself- The cockroach.

For their experiment, the results of which were revealed at the IEEE Engineering In Medicine and Biology Society in San Diego, California on August 28th, 2012, they selected ten Madagascar Hissing cockroaches. Measuring between 5 to 7 inches long, they are one of the larger species of the insect and also, have a relatively long lifespan of 2 years.

In order to turn them into partial robots they first had to perform a simple surgery on the insects. They began by anesthetizing them, which in the insects case meant placing them in a fridge for a few hours. The cold makes them hibernate and therefore, immobile. Then with the help of some medical-grade epoxy glue they stuck tiny magnets to their backs onto which they strapped on a 'backpack' that contained a wireless receiver and transmitter. This helps them track the insect's location, which will become crucial when the cockroach is sent to seek out distressed humans. While this may all seem like a ton of load on the tiny insect, the team says the electronics weigh a mere 0.7 grams (0.024 ounces).

In addition to that, the engineers also used some tweezers to insert electrodes into the roaches' antenna and cerci. This helps them guide the cockroaches to the right area - That's because the cerci, which are sensory organs on the roach's abdomen are used by the insect to detect movement in the air, which tells them when a predator is approaching. By attaching the electrodes to the sensors, the engineers are able to stimulate the motion and fool the roach into thinking that there is a predator around and coax it to move forward. To ensure that the insects are not being hurt in any way by all these foreign attachments, they also affixed a microcontroller that monitors their situation 24/7.

In the laboratory tests done with the biobots, they seemed to work perfectly. While these are still early days and a lot more work has to be done, Mr. Bozkurt believes it will not be long before cockroaches turn from awful pests to man's best friend.

Around since the time of dinosaurs, cockroaches are one of the oldest known insects to mankind and believe it or not, one of most amazing ones too. While they have a bad reputation of being household pests, only  1% of the 4,500 known species of the insect, actually are. They are hardy little things and have managed to survive through generations by simply adapting to all kinds of environments and diets. They will eat anything organic ranging from starches to cheese to beer and even flakes of dried skin or decaying organic matter. When times are really tough they even eat wood (termites) or even worse, each other or, not eat anything at all, for a whole month!

Not impressed? How about this - They can live with up to one week even after their heads have been cut off and hold their breath for a whopping 40 minutes at a time. Not only that, they are also amazingly speedy and can scuttle up to 3 miles an hour and, have maneuvers so rapid, that they can disappear before you can say the word 'cockroach'. And lastly, the reason they were picked to be biobots - they can squeeze through any space, even the tiniest ones. So the next time you happen to see one of these, do give it a quick salute before . . . . Dashing out of the door!

Resources: nationalgeo.com,robaid.com, pestoworldforkids.com,livescience.com

Share by EmailShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on TwitterShare on tumblrShare on StumbleUponShare on PinterestShare on RedditShare on Edmodo
401 Comments
to use your custom avatar.
  • marshmello
    marshmello9/18/2014
    eww i dont like roaches but that sounds pretty cool
    • razorsword
      razorsword9/17/2014
      amazing
      • star_girl
        star_girl8/23/2014
        Cool!
        • lady8/11/2014
          that is owisom
          • crazycatlover3/21/2014
            sounds funny
            • headream100
              headream1002/18/2014
              Looks a bit too real
              • rainbeaux
                rainbeaux2/12/2014
                They mentioned this in the Robo-roaches article. Glad to see people are pursuing this as a possibility! I am curious to how they would go about finding the stranded people.
                • tashadtasha
                  tashadtasha2/12/2014
                  I know right ,but it would still creep me out..
              • I rule 4511/21/2013
                that's mean it could save lives though
                • bob is wierd!11/12/2013
                  Nice, I like all the technology
                  • cameron e harpe10/31/2013
                    awesome i hope it works

                    Vocabulary

                    abdomenaffixedaftermathanesthetizingcercicoaxcrevicescrucialdespisedistressedelectrodeselectronicsenvironmenthibernateimmobilemaneuverspredatorrubblesalutesaviorsensorytermites

                    Most Popular Articles

                    Candy That Doesn't Cause Cavities? Sweet!
                    Candy That Doesn't Cause Cavities? Sweet!
                    9/11/2001 - The Day Americans Came Together
                    Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano Lava Inches Toward Homes
                    Minecraft As A Mandatory Subject In School? Sweet!
                    Boo Mania Sweeps Over America (And The World)!
                    Are You Ready To 'Gangnam Style'?
                    Video Of The Week - If Frozen Was A Horror Movie . . .

                    Latest Comments

                    karinareader

                    How do they do this?But is candy...
                    Candy That Doesn't Cause Cavitie...

                    karinareader

                    SHE IS NOT A CAT?! Kind of cool ...
                    Hello Kitty Begins Her 40th Birt...

                    karinareader

                    This is so sad.I thought we had ...
                    ISIS - The New Threat To World P...

                    ALA