Feeding people, not locusts! Pair’s robot design to help farmers wins global accolade

Feeding people, not locusts! Pair’s robot design to help farmers wins global accolade

QE pupils Abhinav Sandeep and Vyom Srivastava took third place in their age group in a global competition seeking to harness the power of robots to tackle environmental problems.

The pair, who have just started in Year 9, were the only winners outside North America in the Nature Recovery Robots virtual design challenge.

Their Buginator robot is designed to help farmers combat swarms of pests, thus protecting precious ecosystems while the farmers remain safely inside.

The School’s Head of Technology, Michael Noonan, said: “This is a tremendous achievement, and it is exciting to see that Abhinav and Vyom used their skills to develop a robot with a serious purpose, namely boosting the global food supply and helping farmers.”

The competition was run by REC Foundation (the organisation behind the worldwide VEX robotics programmes for young people) and technology company PTC.

It aimed to encourage the engineers of tomorrow to think about how they could help to tackle current global environmental problems.

The QE pair quickly homed in on the problems caused in agriculture by insects, especially locusts. Their submission stated that these “have been growing in numbers over the last few years” and were destroying crops and huge quantities of agricultural produce.

“Our robot has a few key mechanisms, the first being the front-wheel-drive to gain traction on uneven surfaces. The second being the pivot which holds a smartphone, which connects via Bluetooth to a computer screen. The third mechanism is the hammer, which pushes down the spray-can nozzle and sprays anti-insect solution. The last mechanism is the adjustable phone-grip.

“One weakness is that the spray can itself is not adjustable, so it would be more useful for shorter plants. One strength, however, is that there is a smart camera, allowing for possible AI development. The design would be feasible to build, although it would require a laser cutter and 3D printer.”

“This design could save tonnes of food, which could be used to feed people, instead of bugs. Our robot is unique because there is not currently a semi-automatic way to efficiently kill bugs.

As a prize, Abhinav and Vyom receive a $500 VEX Gift certificate.

For a more detailed look at their design, visit the Onshape 3D CAD website.