University of Victoria electrical engineering students Tyler Rhodes and Nick Birch developed the tree planter

Students make robot planter

Research coordinator Ionut Aron says it’s one of the best projects he has ever seen there.

It’s not quite R2D2, but the robot being developed by a pair of engineering students at the UBC Research Forest in Maple Ridge fulfills its purpose – it can plant trees.

Research coordinator Ionut Aron says it’s one of the best projects he has ever seen there.

“It’s very, very interesting. It combines forestry with electrical and mechanical engineering, and the latest technology,” he said.

“It’s a cool project. It could lead to something.”

The Tree Rover is the work of University of Victoria electrical engineering students Tyler Rhodes and Nick Birch.

Aron is supporting them with their project, and has shown them other mechanical planters developed there as far back as the 1960s.

B.C. engineer Jack Walters famously developed a prototype he called “The Forester,” which gained him some international renown, but the device “didn’t go anywhere,” said Aron.

The new robot can’t work on a cutblock in its present configuration, but the concept is promising.

“It definitely has potential,” Aron said.

Birch acknowledged that the entrepreneurial co-op project “is going to require a fair bit more development.”

The students put the Tree Rover together with out-of-pocket funds, so it doesn’t have their conceptual sci-fi mechanical spider legs that would enable it scramble around a cut block. Even tracks would do. But it has small wheels.

They have started a funding project online, and have come up with $3,500 so far, with a goal for $5,000 to invest in their robot.

Already they can load 10 trees into the mechanism, and it will plant them on any terrain it can navigate.

“It can plant multiple trees, in a row, in ideal conditions,” said Birch.

“If we can plant 10, we can scale that up and plant 100 or 1,000, depending the size of the vehicle.”

And that “proof of concept” is what makes their project exciting.

They will be back at UBC’s Malcolm Knapp Research Forest this spring doing more work to further develop the Tree Rover.

Both of the young men are avid outdoorsmen. Neither one has ever been a tree planter, but understand it to be demanding physical labour. And Birch said they are both idealistic about their future careers.

“We both have a shared interest in environmental technologies.”

Whatever ultimately happens with their tree planting robot, the young men will be better for the experience, said Aron. They will have learned about engineering, marketing and problem solving.

“For those two students, it’s the journey that matters. It’s the learning that happens during the process that matters most.”

He said the research forest is the perfect place for their work.

“It’s what we’re all about.”

 

Just Posted

Maple Ridge’s indoor pool redo in final months

Structural work done, with target opening to be late summer

Police investigating body found in Maple Ridge park

Discovered early Friday near highway

Maple Ridge’s lake low with dry spell

Boat launch not open at Alouette Lake

Maple Ridge man to the rescue twice in 10 minutes

Karl Dey helped the VPD take down a violent sex offender

Maple Ridge magnetic hill defies the law of Newton

It is a stretch of road where cars roll uphill instead of down

VIDEO: Giants take a 1-0 playoff series lead

Vancouver beat Seattle 7-1 in game one of the best-of-seven Western Conference series in Langley

‘Families torn apart:’ Truck driver in fatal Broncos crash gets 8-year sentence

Judge Inez Cardinal told court in Melfort, Sask., that Sidhu’s remorse and guilty plea were mitigating factors

Boy who went missing from park remains largest probe in Victoria police history

The four-year old Victoria boy went missing without a trace on March 24, 1991

Six ‘distraction thefts’ in two days spark warning to seniors by Vancouver police

Distraction thefts are used to steal jewelry off the necks of unsuspecting women

WestJet sticking with Boeing 737 Max once planes certified to fly

WestJet had expected to add two more of the planes this year to increase its fleet to 13

Motorcyclist dies after three-vehicle crash on old Island Highway

Accident happened at 12:15 p.m. Friday near Country Club Centre in Nanaimo

B.C. driver caught going 207 km/h on motorcycle along Okanagan Highway

A motorcyclist was caught by Kelowna RCMP going 207 km/h on Highway 97C

Protective human chain forms around B.C. mosque for Friday prayer

Vancouver Islanders stand arm-in-arm to show support in aftermath of New Zealand shootings

Most Read