Elena Roussanova, a senior at the Waldorf School of Orange County, has been granted a U.S. patent for a mechanical walking device with step size adjustment. She took a keen interest in biomimicry in middle school and studied Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests for her eighth-grade project. Since then, Elena has been developing ideas to tackle the much-studied subject of articulated walking on uneven terrain.
Biomimicry is the design and production of materials, structures, and systems that are modeled on biological entities and processes. Often seen as a bridge between biology and engineering studies, this field seeks to learn from and mimic nature to solve challenges in design.
Physicist-turned-artist, Theo Jansen, uses his study of biomimicry to create Strandbeests, which translates to “beach animals” in Dutch. These self-propelled sculptures, which he began creating in 1990, have evolved over the years and become increasingly complex.
In August of 2022, Elena filed a patent for a mechanism that allows multi-legged walkers (such as Theo Jansen’s Strandbeests) to make turns by varying step sizes. According to Elena’s patent, currently known walking devices for multi-legged mechanical walkers “have difficulty maintaining stability while steering.” She has invented an intermediate linkage mechanism that modifies relative step sizes to improve stability.
Elena is grateful to her mentor and neighbor, Bill Ward, and to patent attorney Bob Fish, for their support with her invention.
- Waldorf Education