AP NEWS

Gannon engineering students build snow-removal robot

May 13, 2019
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From left: Niklas Bitters, 22; Mitch Wesley, 22; and Tenger Batjargal, 23, watch as an autonomous snow-removal robot moves along a hallway at the Zurn Science Center at Gannon University in Erie, Pa., on May 10, 2019. The Gannon engineering students were part of a team that built the robot during the 2018-19 school year as their senior project, which they presented to faculty on May 10, 2019. The robot is programmed with a route and then sensors keep it on that route. The team says this machine has 16 miles of battery life and can sweep up to four inches of snow. (Christopher Millette/Erie Times-News via AP)

ERIE, Pa. (AP) — This is a senior project that everyone in Erie can appreciate.

In a region that gets about 10 feet of snow a year, imagine never having to shovel it again.

Five engineering students at Gannon University have built a snow-removal robot that does the job. They say it has 16 miles of battery life and can sweep up to 4 inches of snow.

“It was designed to work on sidewalks at schools and businesses,” said Mark Wesley, 22, a mechanical engineering major from Butler County.

“It would run overnight, while you sleep,” added Tenger Batjargal, 23, an electrical engineering major who is an international student from Mongolia.

The robot, which uses the chassis and drivetrain from a power wheelchair, was created as part of a senior engineering project. The team presented their findings Friday at Gannon’s Zurn Science Center.

The other team members are Tim Jackson, 23, mechanical engineering; Mark Wesley’s twin brother, Mitch Wesley, 22, software engineering; and Niklas Bitters, 22, computer engineering.

After a slideshow presentation of their findings to faculty and staff, they set the robot off to sweep about 100 feet of styrofoam packing peanuts in a hallway on the third floor. A user programs the route that the robot will cover, and then a navigation system designed by the team keeps it on course. It worked perfectly on the packing peanuts Friday morning.

What’s next for Erie’s dream machine?

The engineering students were to graduate Saturday, but they plan — with the help of the university — to pursue patents on the navigation system, if not the entire prototype.

But at least one person wants to see this thing on Erie’s sidewalks, pronto.

“You can’t let this level of thinking and this level of technology just end up as a one-year thought, and (then let it) go away,” said Keith Taylor, president of Gannon, who was at Friday’s demonstration.

“We really need to make sure, as an institution, that we are changing the way that people live and work in the community.”

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Online:

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Information from: Erie Times-News, http://www.goerie.com

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