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Makers embarking on a mission to collect debris from shorelines using a robot — faster & reaching remote locations
Makers embarking on a mission to collect debris from shorelines using a robot — faster & reaching remote locations
Makers embarking on a mission to collect debris from shorelines using a robot — faster & reaching remote locations
96 backers pledged CA$ 10,589 to help bring this project to life.

About this project

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CA$ 10,589

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Over 16 million pounds of trash were collected during the International Coastal Cleanup

Robot Missions is developing a robot platform to help make shoreline cleanup faster, and easier to reach remote locations.

This will have the impact of being more efficient at collecting the debris on a day to day basis — decreasing the quantity which leads to bioaccumulation in living organisms.

Robot capturing debris, Field Test crew with robot
Robot capturing debris, Field Test crew with robot

We're makers and environmentalists brought together by the common cause of wanting to improve the environment with our skills.

The robot platform will navigate tricky terrain to assist with:

  • Retrieving medium sized debris (water bottles, coffee cups)
  • Sweeping small plastic debris semi-autonomously (40mm - 5mm)
  • Logging environmental sensor data in different locations

It will be able to collect 8/10 of the top 10 items collected during the International Coastal Cleanup.

Bottom line: we are developing the robot as a tool to help preserve our natural spaces. 

Field Test crew with robot, Robot navigating on shoreline
Field Test crew with robot, Robot navigating on shoreline

We have developed a prototype and ran multiple field tests. Next step is the Mission Pilot, with the goal of collecting 5kg of debris from Toronto Island.

This will enable us to reach the point where the effort could be replicated in different locations, along with the release of the 3d printable robot platform with the first set of interchangeable modules.

We need your support by backing this project. 

This will help the Mission Pilot become a reality by funding the Field Tests leading up to the Mission Pilot, and costs associated with the further development.

Press

"Ottawa woman creates Bowie the beach-cleaning robot; 4-wheeled robot inspired by Mars rover, named after late singer" - Chloé Fedio and Giacomo Panico, CBC Ottawa

"This project is a great example of young makers and engineers working to promote environmental stewardship through engineering and robotics." - Tom Spendlove, Engineering.com

"It seems that when someone with an engineering or DIY mindset collaborates with someone with different experiences - musical talent, for example - really neat things get made." - Jeremy Cook, RoboticsTrends.com

"Kennedy is using her passion for robotics to improve the environment" - Laurie Monsebraaten, Toronto Star

"Robot is on a mission to clean up Great Lakes shorelines" - Morgan Linn, Great Lakes Echo

"Robot Missions is on a mission to improve the environment, one bot at a time" - Laura Mordas-Schenkein, Inhabitat.com

The Problem

Debris along Toronto Island
Debris along Toronto Island

We are destroying our natural spaces with pollution. Our shorelines are littered with debris that wash ashore.

Plastics break down into tinier fragments, and pose a threat to the local environment:

  • Birds ingesting the plastics, mistaking it as food
  • Toxins leeching into the sand and eventually waterways
  • Animals impeded by debris to form their habitats along the shoreline 

Above is a local example of debris along Toronto Island, where the Mission Pilot will take place.

This pertains to GOAL 15: Life on Land of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Mission Pilot

The Mission Pilot will lay the groundwork for creating a procedure for replicating the usage of the robot to clean shoreline debris. This will be key for a full-scale implementation, and extending the efforts to different locations and community groups.

We will venture to the location (Toronto Island - Manitou Beach), and deploy the robot to begin cleaning. The Field Test crew will assist with this, along with collecting observations about the environment. A debrief session will follow, tying the experience to the larger theme of technology and nature, and how we can effect a larger change.

Robot retrieving a found discarded tennis ball
Robot retrieving a found discarded tennis ball

The goal of the Mission Pilot is to collect 5kg of plastic debris. Through multiple passes, of the robot the debris will be deposited to the 'home base' location. The debris will then be hand sorted to determine what will be recycled, and possibly saved for creating 3d printer filament from it.

Robot Missions

Field Test crew investigating robot
Field Test crew investigating robot

The over-arching purpose of Robot Missions is to enable makers and humanitarians to collaborate on improving the environment through community driven missions. The first mission is clearing debris from shorelines. 

Our vision for clearing shoreline debris is for there to be a fleet of robots that autonomously navigate the shorelines, forming patterns within the waypoints, and collect the debris for further recycling.

About Erin

Erin celebrating the robot capturing debris
Erin celebrating the robot capturing debris

I'm Erin (@RobotGrrl), the founder of Robot Missions.

Robot Missions began as a project out of Studio Y at the MaRS Discovery District, Canada's leading innovation hub, in Toronto, ON. Bringing my technology background to the program, I learned about tying it to a social impact.

Previous to this, I participated in Fab Academy. My final project was a prototype of an unfolding CubeSat robot controlled by a headband. I launched my first robot kit, RoboBrrd on Indiegogo. Designed, manufactured, and shipped the product to over 100 backers.

I started the Robot Party, an online Google+ Hangout that reached over 1 million followers. Named an Intel Emerging Young Entrepreneur, and brought home the gold medal for Canada in the robot olympics, RoboGames. My work has been featured in Forbes, WIREDIEEE Spectrum and on the Discovery Channel.

Robot

Robot taking environmental sensor data (soil moisture)
Robot taking environmental sensor data (soil moisture)

To date, we have constructed a prototype of the robot. It has been adapted to each field test. Here are it's high level capabilities:

  • Drive forwards and backwards 
  • Independent-tilt drive system (allowing centre of gravity of base of robot to be adjusted) 
  • Interchangeable arm mount
  • Soil moisture sampler sensor arm
  • Medium sized debris claw arm
  • Wireless XBee communications 
  • Nunchuck control unit
Envisioned robot platform
Envisioned robot platform

In development is the next version of the robot platform for the Mission Pilot. Our aim is to implement new features based on the need for them arising during the Field Tests. Our future plan is to release it as open source hardware, for other Fab Labs to replicate.

Field Tests

Measuring the traversed path of the robot - 5.7m
Measuring the traversed path of the robot - 5.7m

With a group of volunteers forming the Field Test crew, we are able to learn about the environment, and test how the robot performs in different settings.

The crew is given a Concept of Operations Guidebook, which details the tasks the robot will be doing, and how they can assist in the subteams available.

During our first Field Test on a blustery afternoon at Cherry Beach, the robot worked successfully, and we learned more about its capabilities in the environment. It even started to snow!

Field Test crew at Cherry Beach (snowing!)
Field Test crew at Cherry Beach (snowing!)

Our next Field Test was at Sunnyside Beach, where we learned how the robot can navigate multiple types of different terrain. Check out the pics here.

Field Tests are usually every two weeks, you can find out about the next one on Facebook.

Community

We gave a workshop at University of Toronto, organised by Get Your Bot On.

Summary page of worksheet
Summary page of worksheet

Given a scenario, groups had to determine what task within the problem to solve, who the robot would help, what it would do, and what it's impact would be.

Over the course of the summer, we will be engaging with the online community through the Robot Party. This way those who are not local to Toronto are able to take part!

Timeline

April 2 - Field Test #1 at Cherry Beach

April 16 - Field Test #2 at Sunnyside Beach

May 2 - Launch of campaign

May 14 - Field Test #3

May 28 - Field Test #4

June 6 - End of campaign

June 11 - Field Test #5

June 25 - Field Test #6

July 9 - Field Test #7

July 23 - Field Test #8

August 6 - Field Test #9

August 13 - Mock Mission Pilot

August 20 - Mock Mission Pilot

August 27 - Mission Pilot

August 31 - Online hangout discussing Mission Pilot

Join in

Follow our trails on Facebook and Twitter!

We would also recommend to participate in your local shoreline cleanup effort, for example the WWF Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup!

 

Risks and challenges

One of the risks is not being permitted on to the locations of our Field Tests and Mission Pilot. As these are public locations, it should not be an issue - but we understand that it can happen. In the event that this happens, we are able to face this challenge by having a list of backup locations to defer to, and an adequate communications channel to let everyone know of the changes.

A risk that is communicated during each Field Test is that it is outdoors. It's not a controlled environment, and anything can happen. We face this challenge by giving a recommended list for being prepared. In our Field Test kit, we have a first aid kit. We have a designated Mission Operator role, who would be the point of contact for anything that happens, and if something goes wrong. During the summer we will stay posted on weather updates in the event of a thunderstorm, and take shelter.

By using the robot in the outdoors, it runs the risk of breaking due to the weather conditions, sand, and a variety of other factors. We are well placed to face this challenge by understanding how to fix the robot and make it better. We're not afraid to use temporary solutions if need be (for example, tupperware to protect the electronics).

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Support this project

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 1 or more About $0.80

    High Five

    A high five from Erin or the robot, to you or another robot!

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    Pledge CA$ 5 or more About $4

    Buy the Field Test crew a coffee

    Energise the Field Test crew for the tasks ahead!

    • Receive a digital copy of the Mission Pilot sticker

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 25 or more About $20

    Sticker Pack

    Stick Robot Missions to your favourite item, and show the combination of technology and nature

    • Receive 3 different stickers

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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 50 or more About $40

    Sponsor of 100g of Debris

    Your own, personal, pile of debris that was collected by a robot. When we collect the 100g of debris, we will take a photo of it, and email it to you.

    • Inspirational photo of robot collecting debris (print of photo)
    • Photo of 100g of debris collected (digital)
    • Receive 3 different stickers

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 100 or more About $80

    Maker Pack

    For the maker at heart - tinker away and make a cool module!

    • Developer kit for module attachments using snap fit connectors
    • 3D print of a portion of a wheel
    • Inspirational photo of a messy robot lab desk (print of a photo)
    • Receive 3 Robot Missions postcards over the summer
    • Debris and stickers reward from above

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 100 or more About $80

    Environmental Pack

    For the strong-willed environmentalist who does not give up hope!

    • Light painting of robot displaying environmental sensor data (print of a photo)
    • Robot draws your name in sand (digital photo)
    • Inspirational photo of robot in nature (print of a photo)
    • Receive 3 Robot Missions postcards over the summer
    • Debris and stickers reward from above

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  7. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 100 or more About $80

    Educational Pack

    For the roboticists of tomorrow and agents of change who want to learn more!

    • Classroom demo & presentation of Robot Missions (via online)
    • Thank you dance from robot (video & print of a photo)
    • Inspirational photo of robot interacting with a human or animal (print of a photo)
    • Receive 3 Robot Missions postcards over the summer
    • Debris and stickers reward from above

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  8. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 200 or more About $159

    Field Test Sponsor

    For sponsoring a Field Test! This goes towards transit, supplies, and healthy snacks for the crew. Thanks for helping to make it happen.

    • Photo of an interesting artifact at the Field Test site (print of a photo)
    • Autographed (by all members) photo of Field Test crew (print of a photo)
    • 3D printed scale model of robot
    • Name / logo on robot, blog post, and video credits

    • Postcards, debris, and stickers reward

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  9. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 500 or more About $398

    Mission Pilot Sponsor

    For sponsoring the Mission Pilot! This goes towards the upgrades and preparations on the robot. In addition to transit, supplies, and healthy snacks for the crew.

    • Photo of an interesting artifact at the Mission Pilot site (print of a photo)
    • Autographed (by all members) photo of Mission Pilot crew (print of a photo)
    • 3D printed scale model of robot
    • Name / logo on mast of robot, concept of operations guidebook, blog post & video

    • Postcards, debris, and stickers reward

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  10. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 1,000 or more About $797

    Impact Visionary

    You believe in us. You see the difference we are trying to make, and want to help us when we're first starting out.

    • Commemorative Robot Missions plaque, featuring debris collected by the robot
    • Add an appended name to the robot's name
    • Skype call with Erin
    • Name / logo with an LED on mast of robot, concept of operations guidebook, blog post & video

    • Above rewards from Mission Pilot sponsor

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  11. Select this reward

    Pledge CA$ 2,000 or more About $1,594

    Robot Platform

    You believe in us and want to start this in other communities. This will enable us to create a replicated version of the robot. After the Mission Pilot, we will send it to a candidate community for use in their local shoreline cleanup.

    • Top 3 choices for community to receive the robot
    • Photo of the new robot next to the original robot (print of a photo)
    • Naming rights on this robot (within reason)

    • Above rewards above from Impact Visionary

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Funding period

- (35 days)