Design a Robot to do a Real-World Job!

Reader Dan M. has an interesting challenge for The NXT Step readers. He has a manufacturing setup that he wants to replace and is considering using an actual NXT robotics kit.

Right now, the machine in question uses color concentrate that comes out of a large container/hopper. When the color needs to be changed, the hopper must be cleaned so the colors don’t mix. Dan would like to replace the large hoppers with much smaller containers that can be changed very quickly.

Your job? Help Dan design an NXT device or robot that can replace the color concentrate system by picking two or three of these color pellets at a time from a box or container and transferring them to a funnel system that feeds into a hopper. Now, when Dan needs to change colors, the hopper doesn’t need to be removed and cleaned – instead, he just replaces the color pellet box that the robot will pick from. This process will need to run 24 hours per day, 5 days per week.

Interested? We’ve created a special forum discussion area where you can post comments, questions, and maybe your solution! Dan has agreed to provide feedback as well as pictures of the final design if one can be found to do the job reliably and repeatedly. (And The NXT Step will give the selected robot/device plenty of coverage – we’ll definitely want to interview the designer(s) of any selected device.)

Good luck – you can view some pictures and get more details here.

The rules are fairly simple:

1. Build the device with one (1) NXT Retail kit (sorry, Ed kit is out but if you have the Resource Set and Education Base Set and are willing to limit yourself to the parts found in a single Retail Kit, then please participate)

2. Deadline to have your design submitted is July 1, 2008.

Further information will be posted on the forum thread by either a blog contributor or Dan. Feel free to post questions on the forum thread, too.

UPDATE: The prizes provided by Dan's company are:

1st place: $100 (US) LEGO Gift Certificate
2nd place: NXT Rersource Set
3rd place: NXT Resource Set



Wow... those are some substantial prizes! I'll have to look into this... :-)

They're serious about trying to find a working solution using the NXT. Considering that many "automated" devices (some calling themselves robots) can run $1000-10,000 or more for "industrial" usage, you can see how the simplicity of the NXT would be appealing... and the cost. What they're hoping is that the robot will hold up for 3-4 months or longer with the repetitive usage... 6-12 months would probably make them extremely happy.

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