Colleen K. Unsworth


NASA Glenn Research Center

Cleveland Museum of Natural History

I like



Social Justice



Biomechanics of the praying mantis foreleg strike
Apr 2018 - Current

Due to the high speed requirements to catch quick prey items, a mantis must accelerate their limb segments rapidly, which depends upon mechanical power. While organisms can increase mechanical power output by increasing muscle mass, the alternative is to couple muscle with an elastic tissue to generate relatively greater power than could be attained with muscle alone. In this phenomenon, known as power-amplification, elastic potential energy is stored in elastic structures and rapidly released, resulting in power outputs beyond those of muscle. This research investigates the foreleg strike of the Chinese Mantis (Tenodera sinensis) capturing live prey (Periplaneta americana) to determine whether power-amplification is used in the strike.

Visualizing the effects of crocodilian tail serrations on surface water disturbance
Feb 2018 - Current

Crocodilians have laterally compressed, serrated tails used for propulsion in aquatic environments and balance during terrestrial walking, however the hydrodynamic function of tail serrations is unknown. We tested our hypothesis that serrations disrupt large-scale flow structures from tail movements and correspondingly reduce visible surface disturbance by translating simplified 3D printed serration panels through water using a linear actuator, and video recording laser reflections of the surface disturbance. We used a Continuous Wavelet Transform (CWT) to quantify the disturbance, as CWT detects non-stationary spatial disturbances at a continuous range of frequencies. Understanding the effects of serrations on fluid flow could contribute to bio-inspired noise or turbulence reducing engineered systems, while using CWT to characterize surface disturbance creates a unique framework to study interface dynamics in a three-phase system.

Biomechanics of millipede and blood python locomotion
September 2018 - Current

Seeking biomimetic solutions to limitations in mobility assistance technologes (e.g. walkers, canes, wheelchairs) through understanding the control mechanisms of millipede and blood python locomotion.

Selected Papers and Presentations

E2BMO: Facilitating User Interaction with a BioMimetic Ontology via Semantic Translation and Interface Design
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Here, we propose a solution through a computer-aided user interface tool which integrates a biomimetic ontology with a thesaurus-based functional approach to biomimicry. Through a proof of concept illustrative case study, we demonstrate how merging existing tools can facilitate the biomimicry process in a systematic and collaborative way, broadening solution discovery.