Students design autonomous lawn care robot

April 14, 2018

For their senior design project, a team of engineering students have created a lawn care robot that’s designed to navigate and mow autonomously.

“Our team created a Roomba for a lawn,” said Nampa native Esteban Cano. “We developed an electrically-powered, autonomous lawn mowing system that would take user programmable inputs and navigate the lawn accordingly, while checking a wireless server for updated information.”

“[The project] has given me an opportunity to really put the skills I have learned to the test”
Building this system from the ground up, this team ensured the robot can successfully perform necessary tasks to operate on its own. This includes more than just mowing the lawn; this robot calculates if it has enough battery charge to finish mowing, returns to its charging station when necessary, and maintains safety by only cutting grass.

Esteban explained, “We took many different components including motors, motor controllers, digital compasses and a GPS system and figured out how to make them all work and talk together within a master script—code—to accomplish all of these tasks.”

Esteban has worked with fellow seniors Pedro Biazon, Curtis Garner, Cole Logemann and Hannah Thomas for the past year to design and build this Micron-sponsored robotic lawn mower, which was one of three senior design project choices. The other projects included designing a clean water system and power system for the Nazarene District Center in Myanmar and designing a rocket for a NASA competition.

“The project adds to my education because it has given me an opportunity to really put the skills I have learned to the test,” said Curtis. “It has forced me to use my engineering knowledge to come up with creative solutions to the many problems which arise in a project such as this.”

Besides using their engineering skills to gain experience, this team was able to use them to positively impact others. Although anyone would be able to use this robot, Curtis explained, “It is important to create this because it could be used to help elderly or disabled persons take care of their own lawn if they are unable to do so themselves. Alternatively, it could be a cost-effective solution for large campuses.”

When asked what the most challenging aspect of the project was, Esteban replied, “Attempting to do a full prototype analysis and design in one academic year is not an easy feat, and we definitely overloaded ourselves with what we thought was possible. However, the most rewarding part of the project was seeing everything come together and to see the lawn mower actually do what we had programmed it to do! Simply seeing the outcome after all of our hard work and late nights made the project worth it.”