SUBJECT: Ph.D. Dissertation Defense
BY: Andrew Schulz
TIME: Wednesday, August 3, 2022, 10:00 a.m.
PLACE: Kendeda, 152
TITLE: Mechanics and Materials of the Elephant Trunk with Applications to Conservation Technology
COMMITTEE: Dr. David Hu, Chair (ME, BIO SCI)
Dr. Saad Bhamla (ChBE)
Dr. Rudolph Gleason (ME)
Dr. Greg Sawicki (ME)
Dr. Joseph Mendelson (Biology)


An elephant trunk is both flexible and strong, able to pick up peanuts and uproot entire trees. This versatility has made the elephant a model for soft robotics studies that seek to build strong, flexible manipulators. In this thesis, we report an elephant's behaviors as it extends its trunk to pick up a variety of objects. Particular attention is paid to mechanical principles that explain the dynamics and forces applied to objects such as wrapping, suction, and object manipulation. We also report the geometry of the wrinkles of the trunk and its mechanical properties. Together, these results may help inform future designs of soft robots that can exhibit durability, sensitivity, and strength. In parallel with this research, we report on the design of engineering technologies that will assist with feeding and caring for elephants and gorillas at Zoo Atlanta.