Using sensors to recreate a bat’s biological sonar system
Rob Olins, a local sculptor, uses a variety of different media and takes inspiration from architecture, the urban environment, landscape, acoustics, and modern engineering techniques. Working on behalf of Clearwell Caves, and with funding from Arts Council, Foresters Forest and Heritage Lottery Fund, Rob approached Cubik for help with an installation that focused on the different species of bat living in the caves.
The aim of the exhibit was to educate visitors about a bat’s ability to navigate their environment using their biological sonar system called echo location. Bats send out sound waves through their mouth and nose. When the sound waves hit an object, it produces an echo which bounces off the object and returns to the bats ear. They use this system to identify gaps and spaces to fly through ensuring that they do not fly into anything. Rob had the idea for an exhibit that would demonstrate echo location after noting the similarities to the rear parking sensors on his car.
To replicate the echo location system, it was decided that a connected chain of sensors would be placed either side of one of the cave passages, near where the bats roost. These sensors would be triggered when someone approached, sounding a repetitive beep that speeds up the closer the person gets. This enabled the visitor to close their eyes and zigzag through the tunnel without bumping into the wall. Despite being achieved by the children from the school class visits, our lead engineer Marijan seemed unable to complete the system – much to the team’s amusement.
The exhibit was live for a month and, following some experimentation with the proximity of the sensors, Rob and his colleagues at Clearwell Caves were satisfied with the final set up.
Speaking about the project, Rob Olins said:
“My experience working with Cubik was excellent. I gave them a challenge, which like many simple problems require a complex solution. Cubik solved the problem, on time and within budget.”
Cubik relished the challenge of designing a system like this with its technical complexities that also had to survive the harsh conditions. In addition, we were delighted to be given the opportunity to see the system in action and have a private tour of the cave system.
Ingress protection & enclosures