University of Notre Dame Unveils Robotic Turtle to Safeguard Sea Turtle Hatchlings’ Journey to the Ocean

University of Notre Dame Unveils Robotic Turtle to Safeguard Sea Turtle Hatchlings’ Journey to the Ocean

A team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame has developed an innovative solution to aid sea turtle hatchlings in their journey from birth to the sea.


The primary aim of this project is to mitigate the challenges and risks that these vulnerable hatchlings face during this critical period.

Led by Yasemin Ozkan-Aydin, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Notre Dame, the team has created a robotic turtle with the intention of guiding these baby sea turtles safely to the ocean.

Emulating Sea Turtle Gait for Optimal Movement

The robotic turtle is ingeniously designed to replicate the movement of a sea turtle on land.

It features front flippers for propulsion and rear flippers for steering, much like its biological counterpart.


Notably, these four flippers can operate independently and are crafted from silicone to strike the right balance between flexibility and rigidity.

The development process involved a comprehensive study of locomotion patterns from various species, integrating the most efficient elements from each to enhance adaptability and versatility in the robot’s design.

Innovative Construction and Functionality

Powered by batteries, the robot turtle employs 3D-printed plastic components for both its “body” and the connecting parts that link the body to the flippers.

This strategic combination of materials contributes to its seamless movement and functionality.

Addressing Navigation Challenges for Hatchlings

Baby sea turtles typically rely on three main methods for navigation upon hatching.


These methods encompass visual cues, sensitivity to the higher light levels of the reflective sea, and the detection of Earth’s magnetic field.

Additionally, as they draw closer to the ocean, they become attuned to the kinetic forces of the waves.

However, these natural navigational mechanisms can be disrupted by human influences, such as artificial city lights causing hatchlings to veer off course.

The robotic sea turtle presents an innovative solution by potentially serving as a guide to assist the hatchlings in finding their way to the sea.

A Crucial Mission for Endangered Species

Sea turtles face a challenging journey as they embark from their hatching spot buried beneath the beach sands to reach the ocean waters.


Regrettably, all seven key species of sea turtles are currently classified as either threatened or endangered.

Alarmingly, only a minute fraction of one in a thousand sea turtle hatchlings manage to survive to adulthood, as reported by the WWF.

This underlines the critical importance of safeguarding these delicate creatures during their early stages of life.

The Collaborative Team behind the Innovation

The team responsible for the creation of this robotic sea turtle is comprised of accomplished individuals.

In addition to Prof. Yasemin Ozkan-Aydin, the project involves the contributions of John Simon McElroy, an undergraduate from University College Dublin, and Nnamdi Chikere, a doctoral student specializing in electrical engineering.


In summary, the University of Notre Dame’s team of researchers has devised a groundbreaking solution in the form of a robotic turtle to support the journey of sea turtle hatchlings towards the ocean.

This innovation holds immense promise in safeguarding the survival of these endangered species, providing a beacon of hope for their future.

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