Robotics and automation education and research provide an opportunity to create change and develop solutions to problems faced in society. Some of the cross disciplinary themes of the Centre for Engineering and Industrial Design (CEID) at Waikato Institute of Technology (Wintec) include sustainability, technology, and innovation. Addressing economic and environmental sustainability is vital for future generations. Recycling and reusing items can reduce waste and expenditure.
Wintec is a polytechnic that offers practical engineering courses at degree and diploma levels. Some electrical engineering courses rely on hardware components such as resistors, capacitors, inductors, voltage regulators, and diodes for project work. For example, students are required to construct an electrotechnology product in the Electrical and Electronics Applications course. The construction could be on a printed circuit board (PCB) or breadboard. After project work, the constructed PCBs are left in storage or thrown away. Used components are often discarded instead of being reused. Sorting parts is tedious, and this could be achieved using an automated sorting system.
Dr Praneel Chand, a senior academic staff member and research leader at CEID, recently received funding to develop a vision-based method for sorting used parts. Dr Chand used this funding to purchase a NED robot and conveyor belt from The Brainary to develop a proof-of-concept solution. The vision system and commands to control the NED and conveyor are being implemented in Matlab. Currently, a Matlab app that implements basic control of the NED has been developed. This app has received positive feedback from Niryo, the manufacturer of NED, and they plan to use it in their future tutorials. The vision system is in initial stages of development. A working solution is anticipated by the end of 2022 or early 2023.
Once a working prototype has been developed, the vision system could be integrated with project work in other courses such as programmable logic controller (PLC) programming. In PLC programming, students develop programs to control various types of conveyor belt system machinery. This opens the opportunity for students to use the conveyor belt machinery and NED to sort items that they (or a client) perceive as important for recycling/reuse as part of their project work. Ultimately, this project and its outcomes will contribute towards project-based and work integrated learning.
Dr Praneel Chand
Dr Praneel Chand, a senior academic staff member and research leader at CEID, recently received funding to develop a vision-based method for sorting used parts. Dr Chand used this funding to purchase a NED robot and conveyor belt from The Brainary to develop a proof-of-concept solution. The vision system and commands to control the NED and conveyor are being implemented in Matlab.