Students build recycling robot to wage war on waste

The unique STEM project has received funding from the Queensland State Department of Employment, Small Business and Training through the VET in Schools program.

This month, students at Grace Lutheran College in Queensland will build a robot that encourages recycling, while learning skills for careers after the fourth industrial revolution.

According to Oxford Economics, robots could take over up to 20 million manufacturing jobs in the next decade. Instead, people will be building, programming and maintaining robots.

Stephen Bornstein, CEO of Cyborg Dynamic Engineering, says that current final year engineering VET projects do not give students the skills and experience to make this transition.

“They were doing simple, old-school fabrication,” says Stephen.

STEM + sustainability

Stephen and his co-founder Ryan Marple got involved in the recycling robot project when they were approached by Andrew Bradshaw, CEO of IETMCS, with his partner Skills Generation, a Registered Training Organisation (RTO number 41008), which provides vocational training to Queensland schools within the drone and now robotic engineering area. Andrew had identified that students needed skills that were more relevant to the robotic revolution and through introducing working robots to the school environment, students will understand how important studying in the field’s areas of STEM is to their future.

Together, they set out to create a project that covered the core aspects of robotics in a practical, hands-on way. It also had to be something that was visible to kids around the school to make them excited about getting involved.

They decided to build a robotic wheelie bin that follows a white line around the school grounds, and stops when students approach to put in their recycling. Students can use a roll of tape to mark a path for the robot.

“It encourages sustainability and recycling at the same time as promoting robotics-based STEM pathways,” Stephen explains.

Future-focused STEM Ed

Stephen says the project, which has received funding from the Queensland State Department of Employment, Small Business and Training through the VET in Schools program funding is designed to give students a range of practical skills and experiences. These include constructing the wheelie bin’s chassis, assembling the robot, wiring up the electronic components, programming, testing and maintenance.

“We’re focused on the hands-on stuff,” he adds.

To keep it on track, the robot has infrared (IR) sensors which use a light emitting diode to bounce light off the white line to a photodiode, which produces a voltage that tells the robot whether to turn left or right to stay on the marked path

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The robot also has built-in safety measures to make sure it doesn’t venture up steep hills or get too close to students.

“When a student gets close, it will slow down, when they get closer it will stop. And it will only move off again once the student is far enough away,” says Stephen, explaining that this is achieved with 360 degree motion sensors.

The first robot will be launched at Grace Lutheran College on 11 October. Stephen has a history with this school, it is where he met his co-founder Ryan when both were mentoring a student robotics program. He says the school is looking forward to getting underway.

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“They’re going to have about 10 to 12 students working on the assembly and build,” he adds.

In 2020 the kit and VET courses will be available to schools across Queensland, with a planned interstate and overseas export program rollout to follow.

For more information on this projects kits and courses contact Skills Generation.

Nadine Cranenburgh

Author: Nadine Cranenburgh

Nadine is an electrical and environmental engineer who works as a freelance writer and editor. She loves creating articles and content about exciting and complex technology.


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