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Crowds Help Robots Repair Damaged Coral Reefs

A team of Scottish scientists hopes to raise $107,000 to build coral reef repairing robots

smithsonian.com

Photo: tiswango

Nothing like a coral reef in need of repair, and a robot ready to get to work, to get people to pull out their wallets. A team of Scottish scientists who submitted their reef-repairing robot to Kickstarter raised $3,000 in less than a week with the help of 80 backers, the BBC reports. (Since that report, that total has risen to 245 backers, kicking in $8,000.) The campaign has a ways to go yet, however. The team hopes to raise a total of $107,000 before the Kickstarter deadline in June.

The coral-bots, as the team is calling them, work by transplanting damaged coral with pieces of healthy coral, much like a gardener pruning and sowing a plot of flowers. Coral-bots have already succeeded in sea tests, but the researchers still need to hone the machines’ ability to detect healthy coral. The team also needs to design and create robot arms for plucking and putting down appropriate bits of coral. The Kickstarter campaign will directly fund these efforts, and, upon success, the team plans to conduct a live demonstration in a public aquarium. If successful, they would then move on to the first on-the-ground mission in Belize.

The Scottish team aren’t the only ones turning to crowdfunding to support their work in science. Recently, crowds have help raise funds for projects ranging from space exploration to studying rare lizards to reinstating science education in third-grade classrooms.

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