Guest Blog: Erin Kennedy, Robot Missions
What will shoreline cleanup look like in the future?
Manual shoreline cleanup efforts are fuelled by the human spirit to show support for our planet. While this is important and impactful, often times the tiny-trash debris goes unnoticed or undetected while collecting the larger, more visible, items. Pieces such as nurdles, cigarette butts, styrofoam - all of which poses an ecological threat to the wildlife.
Below are photos of the tiny trash debris on Sunnyside Beach near the Humber River in Toronto in June.
Seeing piles of tiny trash debris first hand on the shores of Toronto Island a few years ago lead me to find a way to help solve this. Collecting the pieces by hand would have taken too much time.
At Robot Missions, we are harnessing the power of robots to reduce the amount of pollution entering our waterways by automating the collection of harmful tiny-trash debris on shorelines.
We developed a robot, replicable anywhere with a 3D printer, aiming to collect the debris more efficiently than manual efforts - thereby mitigating the ecological effects that threaten the surrounding wildlife. With the lower cost and portability, this will provide parks with an entry into robotics and automation.
Currently, our robot is tailored specifically for sandy beaches and tiny trash debris. In the future, we will extend the functionality through different modules. Starting with human operation with semi-autonomous routines, we will build towards a more autonomous robot.
The next step for Robot Missions is to begin trials of the robot in parks. We're actively looking for candidate parks for next spring / summer - contact us to learn more.
We test our prototype during Field Tests. Bringing together a group of volunteers, we deploy the robot through multiple tasks, and determine what has to be improved upon for the next revision. It's a great way to experience STEM in a hands on way, and apply it to a real-world challenge facing our environment. To date, we've engaged with almost 200 participants on 15 Field Tests, and the robot has collected over 2.75kg of debris.
As a part of the Future-themed week during the Kingston & Wolfe Island Culture Festival, we are holding a Field Test at Lake Ontario Park. Since Kingston doesn't have a sandy shoreline (yet), we will simulate debris conditions in one of the sandboxes at the park. You're invited to join in on Thursday, August 3rd, 6-8pm! Tickets available here, and Facebook event page is here
It's been great to receive assistance from the crew at Lake Ontario Waterkeeper with answering our endless questions. Excited to meet members of the extended LOW community at the Field Test, as a look into a way we can have a swimmable, drinkable, fishable Lake Ontario in the future!