Planet Robotics team project to address trash concerns

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A prototype of the smart trash can that the team developed to alert Waste Management when the can is nearly full. Courtesy photo

A group of North Attleborough students are taking on a project to alert Waste Management when public trash cans need to be emptied.

First Lego League [FLL] is an international LEGO Robotics competition. Teams have to solve real-world problems, build and program robots to do tasks on a field mat, and work together as a team.

The theme for the FLL challenge this season is City Shaper. All teams have to do a research project in the broad area of “problems related to public spaces.” The Planet Robotics team has participated in Keep North Attleboro Beautiful [KNAB] for the last two years and know firsthand about the amount of trash in public spaces such as parks, ponds, and downtown.

The Planet Robotics team was mentored by Marsha Goldstein, founder of KNAB. They learned from her about the motivation behind KNAB and its various programs, trash management, how and where its found, preventive strategies by effective government policy, and the goal of changing habits of a generation.

Planet Robotics noticed that sometimes trash cans are overflowing, sometimes on the weekend, holidays, and in the summer. Everyone wants to make the right choices but they don’t know where to dispose of trash when the can is full.

The team is designing a smart trash can that detect when it is 80 percent full and pings an alerts to a Waste Management professional about its status and location on a smart phone app—that way they can address it with priority.

I was thrilled to be invited to speak to the kids and I was astounded by their capability to create these inventions,” said Goldstein.

The design is based on an Ultrasonic sensor, using a micro controller-based Arduino, with a WiFi module sending alerts. A typical message will read “trash can at location 14 is almost full(red), please refresh cans.”