Student Voices

Three Minute Thesis 2013: Mike Henrey, Engineering

June 01, 2013
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SFU's Three Minute Thesis finals took place on March 6, 2013. Mike Henrey (Canada), Engineering, spoke on "Sticking in Space: Robots with gecko-inspired adhesive feet."

Congratulations to Mike for receiving the first-place and the people's choice prize in the competition!

Summary
A gecko sticks to surfaces using van der Waals forces: intermolecular interactions acting over distances on the nano-scale. Unlike suction or pressure sensitive adhesives (which do not function in a vacuum) and magnets, Velcro, or claws (which require specific surfaces to adhere to), gecko-style adhesion has the potential to work on any surface in a space environment. For this reason, a robot that sticks to surfaces with a synthetic, gecko-inspired adhesive is of interest to the space-engineering community. Examples of climbing robots include Stanford’s Stickybot and SFU’s TBCP.

Biography
Mike Henrey started studying Climbing Robots with Gecko-Like Adhesives in September 2010 as his MASc. thesis topic.

This project was a collaboration between the MENRVA lab at SFU, and the European Space Research and Technology Centre. First, Mike designed and built a FPGA based, 6-legged climbing robot, which adhered to surfaces using synthetic dry adhesives. Because this research is currently under publication, no video is currently available.

In the summer of 2012, Mike spent 5 months in the Netherlands investigating the effects of simulated space environments on synthetic dry adhesives, resulting in a recent publication in the Journal of Aerospace Science and Technology.

He defended his thesis in March 2013, and is currently wrapping up his research. In the future, he hopes to work for a space engineering company, and is very excited by the number of private space companies that have emerged in the last few years. In his spare time, Mike enjoys playing with hobby electronics: he is currently building a waterproof time-lapse camera controlled by an Arduino.

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