Minnesota Math Work Equals Big NSF Grant

    July 20, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

The National Science Foundation has awarded the University of Minnesota a $19.5 million USD mathematics grant.

The University’s Institute for Mathematics and its Applications received the welcome news from the NSF. A five-year, $19.5 million grant, the single biggest investment in mathematics ever made by NSF, will be on the way to Minnesota.

According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the University is being rewarded for its mathematicians and electrical engineers meeting with a cockroach expert. That’s right. Cockroaches.

That meeting led to applying the Institute’s problem-solving resources on developing a six-legged robot they call RHex. They were inspired by a talk at a 1998 workshop given by UC-Berkeley biologist Robert Full. Wondering how cockroaches can walk over variety of substances turned into a mechanical model of that movement.

Mathematical principles rest at the heart of that model. And someday, a later version of RHex could be scurrying across the Martian landscape. The NSF grant will allow the Institute to have more of these workshops, and to bring people like Dr. Full to the Institute for periods of time.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.