Wis. Students Develop Robot Snowblower


Other InvenTeams across the country are hard at work on their projects, too.

SOAR High School in Lancaster, Calif., is working on a alcohol level detection bracelet. Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C., is designing a school emergency door-locking mechanism.

Mount Edgecumbe High School in Sitka, Alaska, is building a search-and-rescue unmanned aerial vehicle.

All the teams will converge in June at MIT in Boston to present their projects to educators from the prestigious science and engineering school and leaders from the Lemelson Foundation, a nonprofit group that works to support future inventors. The idea is to challenge and engage young minds, and create an educational project that mimics what happens in research and development in major industries, said Theran Peterson, the technical educationteacher who advises the Wausau West group.

The students have developed working relationships that cater to each other’s specialties and interests. Klein, for instance, has a naturally outgoing personality, and he likes doing many things, from taking pictures to solving engineering problems. He acts as a kind of a project manager.

Brandon Ollhoff, 18, has a practical engineering and fabricating mind, and he has cut apart and welded back together a framework that holds the battery-powered Ariens snowblower auger and blower.

James Waldman, 17, is a video photographer and editor, so he has taken to recording the team’s progress. But they all work together in production and ideas, and it’s not a simple process.

“Making new things is hard,” said Justen Toivonen, 18. One of the biggest challenges the team has overcome so far is solving a traction issue. The robot snowblower has a regular snowblower front, and a battery pack and trailing wheel in the back. The drive wheels are in the center of the machine.

The initial prototype was designed on a rigid frame. When the robot snowblower would hit a ridge or bump with the front chute, it would lift the drive wheels off the ground. The team then designed a frame that had an up-and-down pivot, allowing the front to lift and still keep the traction on the wheels.

The highlight of the project, in Peterson’s mind, is the students’ enthusiasm to learn and build.

Recently, for example, a few of the students were in the shop working on the machine until 9 p.m.

“I had to kick these students out,” Peterson said. That made a long day for the teacher.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” Peterson said.

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Posted by on Mar 1st, 2014 and filed under Techline. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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