An unusual robot designed by professor David Zarrouk at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is capable of changing its shape to overcome obstacles, allowing it to roll around on wheels, crawl like a turtle, and even flip itself over to traverse difficult terrain.

The RSTAR (Rising Sprawl-Tuned Autonomous Robot) features sprawling wheel-leg assembly, which allows its body to move separately from its legs, thus changing its center of gravity to overcome obstacles and even climb walls.

According to Zarrouk, “The RSTAR is ideal for search and rescue operations in unstructured environments, such as collapsed buildings or flooded areas, where it must adapt and overcome a variety of successive obstacles to reach its target.”

YouTube video

The 3D printed RSTAR robot is outfitted with a four-bar extension mechanism, giving it the ability to extend the distance between its body and legs, hence the “sprawling” movement. It can also extend both its height and width three-times over and shift its mass forward, backward, and vertically. Depending on the terrain, the robot can be outfitted with wheels, spoked legs, or a combination of the two, and uses a pair of worm gears and conical gears to adjust their position.

RSTAR is capable of shifting its weight and adjust its limbs to climb vertically.

As seen in the video, Zarrouk and his team are already in the process of developing a bigger version of the RSTAR, allowing it to climb over larger objects, including stairs. It’s also able to carry four pounds of sensors and supplies and can even haul a smaller version of the robot on its back for deployment in hard to reach or confined areas. The team also plans on incorporating machine learning algorithms into the design, giving the robot a level of autonomous control for simple navigation


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