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

Homes found for abandoned hedgehogs in Maple Ridge

Lucky new owners picked up their pets on Aug. 20

Lock your car doors, brush your teeth

Ridge Meadows RCMP give safety tip

Have fun, but keep river clean, says City of Maple Ridge

Message out to pack out litter, after visiting South Alouette River

Letter: Bigger issues in Maple Ridge than train horns

Loves to hear the sound, part of our history

B.C. cricket players get interrupted by racist remark

Community has had protocols in place for years to respond to prejudice

Groovy B.C. wedding a throwback to Woodstock ‘69

Couple hosts themed wedding 50 years after legendary festival

‘Do the right thing,’ implores sister of South Surrey stabbing victim

IHIT confirms male arrested in connection with Paul Prestbakmo’s death no longer in custody

Nearly 50% of Canadians experience the ‘post-vacation blues’: poll

48 per cent of travellers are already stressed about ‘normal life’ while still on their trip

More women may need breast cancer gene test, U.S. guidelines say

Recommendations aimed at women who’ve been treated for BRCA-related cancers and are now cancer-free

Couple could go to jail for taking 88 lbs. of Italian sand

Pair said they didn’t know it was illegal to take the sand, which is protected as a public good

Bodies of two missing Surrey men found near Ashcroft: RCMP

Ryan Provencher and Richard Scurr have been missing since July 17

Most Read