Williamston's InvenTeam creates beach-cleaning robot

Published: Feb. 14, 2020 at 9:29 AM EST
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In this edition of Schools Rule, WILX News 10 is highlighting an invention that is cleaning things up a bit.

Williamston's InvenTeam is designing an autonomous beach cleaner and the students just got some big help to make it happen.

“It's really cool to be able to apply skills that we've learned in school," said Allyson Suandi, a senior on the InvenTeam.

Williamston's InvenTeam is one of 14 schools in the nation to get a $10,000 Lemelson-MIT grant. The money will go toward building their robot.

"It uses an autonomous program and it will create a geographic fence," explained Gabe Lounsbury, a senior on the InvenTeam. "It drives around inside this fence and uses machine learning to detect where plastics are in the sand. Then, once it does that it has a vacuum on it that will then essentially suck that plastic right up out of the sand and then store it in the bin," Lounsbury continued. "That vacuum is attached to a rail so that it can slide back and forth. So it's kind of like a lawn mower."

The autonomous robot will pick up small plastics, helping to keep Michigan beaches clean.

"Since we live in Michigan we are very fortunate to have the great lakes and all the smaller lakes in our great state," explained Noah Palmatier. "We want to just keep those lakes great and keep the beaches clean for us to enjoy and for people in the future to enjoy as well."

They work on their invention in a storage closet in which they have created a makeshift beach. They say as of mid-February, things are looking good.

"It actually gives us an opportunity to apply the STEM skills that we learned in school," said Suandi. "All of the members of our team are a part of our school's match and science academy. It's really cool to be able to apply skills that we've learned in school."

The impact of their project is not lost on these high school seniors.

"It is probably one of my best achievements of high school. It is definitely one of the things I throw around saying like, 'Hey, I'm on the InvenTeam, here's what I do,'" said Lounsbury. "We're designing, we're creating an invention. How many high school students can say that they've created an invention?"

On February 15 the Williamston InvenTeam will present their project to MIT for their mid-grant review.

They hope to have it cleaning up Michigan's beaches by summer 2020.

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