Sam Felton and some colleagues from Harvard and MIT have built a transformer out of origami, electricity, robots and Shrinky Dinks. The self-folding and walking robot came about after the students endeavored to “make robots, and machines in general, as quickly and cheaply as possible”. By using new technology that allows you to print electronic circuits onto certain surfaces and the ancient art of origami, they created a flat sheet with the necessary wiring and folds to build a small crawling robot.

The dilemma was then the actual folding; a human would take a significant amount of time to make the needed folds. Cue the Shrinky Dink, a children’s toy that shrinks to one third its size when heat is applied. The elastic, shape memory polymers were attached to the sheet and then small heating apparatus to the electronic conductors. When power is put through the circuits, the heaters shrink the polymers thus tightening the folds of the paper resulting in a rigid form – the robot. Felton hopes to see this technology further developed and used in space and even rescue situations where only a small space is available.