Gillbert is hungry to stop water pollution

This 3D-printed bot was designed by a student for a contest, and is shaped like a fish ('Gill'-bert, get it?)
Gillbert is a bot that is designed to collect plastic trash. (Courtesy of Robert Siddall)

The world of robotics is growing all the time. From robots that dance to robots that help perform everyday tasks to robots that help out in dangerous situations, we're only scratching the surface of what they can accomplish.

Sometimes, the only limit is our imagination!

Engineers at the University of Surrey in England wanted to tap into that sense of invention. So this year, it held a really cool contest: The Natural Robotics Contest.

The rules were simple. Anyone could send in ideas and plans for a robot that was based on some kind of creature. They would pick a winning entry, and then their team would actually build that robot in real life.


The 2022 winner was recently announced and completed, and we think that you'll love it. Designed by a student named Eleanor Mackintosh, it is a 3D-printed fish robot called Gillbert. And this salmon-sized bot is more than just a fun fish mimic. It actually serves a purpose.

It cleans the water!

Munching on microplastics

Eleanor Mackintosh's winning design entry. Neat! (GCourtesy of Robert Siddall)

Water pollution is a really big issue, especially microplastics, small particles of plastic waste that are really difficult to collect and are then eaten by aquatic wildlife.

Gillbert may just be one bot, but it is designed to pick up those pesky particles. All it needs to do is swim around and open its big mouth!

It has a series of gill filters that collect microplastics as small as 2 mm (0.07 inches) across. After making a few trips around the water, Gillbert can then be taken out and the trash gets removed! Congrats, Eleanor. What a great idea!

Watch Professor Robert Siddall talk about the contest, choosing Gillbert, and how the robot works in the video below. (Also, they're holding 2023 contest. Maybe your design could win!)

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