the sarabee part II: prototyping the data port

Sara Behbakht
5 min readOct 21, 2020

Expanding on the sarabee

In last week's physical prototyping project, I created an autonomous robotic informant to help scientists conserve a declining bee population. I focused heavily on the form of the robotic bee, but this week I wanted to expand on the data port that the robotic bee would land on and use to translate data.

I designed the sarabee data port to function with my previous design and allow a place for the bee to recharge and transfer data to the researcher's computer, phone, or tablet. The purpose of this investigation is to explore the form of this data port and assess the feasibility of this solution.

I created a simple foam prototype that can house the bee and also connect to any technology through Bluetooth.


To expand on this simple foam data port prototype I sketched the components of this this data port.

Through sketching the data port, I discovered that it is composed of a larger rectangle, two slits where the legs of the bee can connect, a place for where the bee can land, and a charging port for the bee body, a port for Bluetooth connection, and also a button to turn the device on and off.

Prototyping process

To create this model, I started with extruding a basic rectangle and filleting the edges. This provided a steady base for my bee to land on in addition to charging and transferring data. After this platform was prototyped, I subtracted two slits for the bees legs to hook into and a spot for the tail of the bee to rest on the platform. All of these measures are designed to keep the bee upright and locked into the charger to avoid it breaking or getting damaged.

For charging features I extruded two thin rectangles that could plug into a wall for charging. I also added a slot for an charging cord if necessary. The bee is modular so with the charging port the researcher could take out the battery in the back part of the bee and charge that part individually. With this design, I wanted to provide multiple different pathways for charging so researchers could choose what they prefer.

For data transfer, I included a Bluetooth button ( the smaller button) to connect to any Bluetooth divide within range. Also the smaller charging chord slit could also be used for a chord to connect the bee to any laptop or device to download the data manually.

Evaluation and Analysis

Ideally, the next step in the process would be to work with the Mill and 3D print the data port. Through printing, I could understand how the digital prototyping translated to a 3D product and correct any mistakes I made in digital prototyping. However, because I do not feel comfortable going to the Mill because of the COVID-19 restrictions, this is not a possibility.

With my 3D printed prototype, I would have placed my bee on top of it and brought my design to a bee researcher to have them test it and get their input.

With this project I feel like I tried to do too much similar to last week. The data sharing Bluetooth button could be on the bee directly, and the charging port could attach to the bee directly as well. But this piece also does function as a stand for the bee.

One of my colleagues brought up an interesting alternate design to me when presenting this work in class on Tuesday ,and said that I should consider creating a hive for multiple bees. It would be likely that each researcher would have multiple bees in multiple places, so creating a wireless charging port and data port would allow simultaneous charging and data collection. This alternate design would also be consistent with my first design in terms of mimicking bee behavior and connecting multiple bees data points.

If I had more time I would explore this idea further, and will consider reworking this assignment to create a charging hive for my portfolio.


Learning Computer Aided Design was really challenging for me because it was my first time working with this method of digital prototyping. I was immediately intimidated by it. I worked hard and watched a lot of tutorials to try and bring a digital prototype of my bee to fruition, however I ended up getting really frustrated and deciding to tackle a more straight forward project for a beginner CAD project. I often have really big ideas and get frustrated when I can’t make the digital versions look like what I want them to in my head.

However, the charging port was challenging enough and I am still not completely satisfied with how it looks. I feel like I learned a lot from this process and appreciate the challenge but I would have appreciated more time to experiment with the software and time to make something more advanced.

I did enjoy the lightweight nature of Onshape and I liked the ability to collaborate with my peers. As Jordan said in class, it’s cool that such an advanced software can be democratized through a collaborative and free browser program. While this assignment definitely frustrated me, I look forward to revisiting CAD in the future when I feel I have ample time to really explore it and tackle more complex projects!