"Roach-bots" may one day be used for everything from anti-terrorism operations to search and rescue, even space exploration.
But why a cockroach?
"Well, they're not lovely creatures but they're amazingly fast. They're amazingly robust, they don't have a very big brain yet they cope very well," said Mark Cutkosky.
Cutkosky, an engineering professor, leads a team at Stanford University building robots that are not only as agile as cockroaches, but equally indestructible.
"In contrast, most of the robots that have been built today are fragile. They go along and then you think about the Mars rover that got stuck on Mars."
As many know all too well, nothing stops a cockroach.
"Cockroaches are really sort of disgusting animals. We think so, too. But they have wonderful secrets they can tell us about the nature of movement in all animals," said U.C. Berkeley biologist Robert Full.
What Full has discovered has inspired new designs. One, called Rex, was developed at the University of Michigan.
"In the past engineers have built things that are metal and stiff and move like a robot in a very rigid fashion, and animals are small and smooth and compliant and they bounce along," said Full.
Cockroaches aren't the only things crawling thru the halls of higher learning. Some other creatures being studied here now could soon have robots climbing the walls.
The amazing gecko feet are the newest source of inspiration. Creatures we seldom think of as role models may, after all, have some traits to admire.