Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Fly Swatter

PostedJuly 26, 2009

Download File (mp3)

Randy Atkins: Cal Tech bioengineer Michael Dickinson is scrutinizing how flies respond to a swatter.  He says even with a brain the size of a poppy seed…

Michael Dickinson: …within about a tenth of a second they can plot their escape.  They actually plan their jump so they jump away from the oncoming swatter.

Randy Atkins: Dickinson’s goal isn’t better fly swatting techniques, but to understand how flies work and…

Michael Dickinson: …come up with the engineering that’s necessary to actually construct functional robots the size of insects.

Randy Atkins: Possible applications range from searching for survivors in collapsed buildings to spying to space exploration.  With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, 103 point 5 F-M,


  • Dickinson's lab at Cal Tech
  • Video of insect-inspired robotics
  • Washington Post story on "robobugs"