Click Beetle Project

There is a need for agile, powerful, and energy-efficient robotic systems for defense, agriculture, and health applications. Insects, which occur in almost every habitat on earth, are known for their speed and maneuverability and they provide excellent solutions and inspiration for the next generation of robotic systems. The maneuverability observed in insects is enabled, in part, by sophisticated energy storage and release processes involving architectured materials and structures. For instance, click beetles (Coleoptera: Elateridae) evolved a fast energy release mechanism of legless jumping for self-righting purposes. From an initially inverted position, click beetles jack-knife their bodies, catapulting into the air and landing back on their feet. Our research works on understanding and mimicking the power amplification strategy click beetles employ to release fast bursts of energy that allow them to accelerate from a completely stationary position to a ballistic motion.

In nature, click-beetles use a unique hinge structure between their prothorax and mesothorax that acts as a power amplifier to produce a high acceleration while jumping. This structure enables them to jump the height of several times their body length without using legs. In addition to investigating the material, interior, and exterior properties of the hinge structure, it is necessary to study beetle jump trajectories to inform the design of novel jumping mechanisms.

For better control over variables, we designed a special launching platform and simplified beetle prototypes to simulate the latching and release of the hinge. This launcher design uses a quick-reaction release mechanism and magnetic actuator to simulate the unlatching process and uses a spring to simulate the stored elastic energy.

Figure 1: Magnetic Release Launcher

Through the design of different simplified prototypes, we can compare the jumping trajectories of live click beetles and constructed prototypes with different geometric, material and inertia properties.

Figure 2: Model with Varying Center of Mass

This study will help reveal how variables such as center of mass, spring elasticity, elytra curvature, weight, and body length affect the beetles’ jumping capability. Our findings provide further insight into design and fabrication of legless jumping robotic mechanisms.

Project Lead

  • Liyuan Zhang – MechSE – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign


  • Teagan Mathur – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering – Princeton University
  • Yuhe Cui –  MechSE – University of Illinois in Urbana – Champaign
  • Dr. Aimy Wissa – Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering – Princeton University
  • Dr. Alison Dunn – MechSE – University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Dr. Jake Socha – Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics – Virginia Tech


from left: Aimy Wissa, professor of mechanical science and engineering; Marianne Alleyne, professor of entomology, School of Integrative Biology; and Ophelia Bolmin, doctoral student in mechanical engineering.

Click Beetle Team selfie: Marianne Alleyne, Aimy Wissa, Ophelia Bolmin, and Alison Dunn