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UWindsor students design PS4-controlled rover to detect, remove dead chickens from barns | CBC News


Dozens of chickens might die in a chicken barn on an average day.

Some engineering students at the University of Windsor have come up with a device that can go around and remove that so-called “deadstock.” 

The PS4-controlled rover can detect, scoop and remove dead chickens.

From being part of the project, student and team member Eric Jonathan said he learned that chickens dying in barns is a “pretty big problem” —  with anywhere from 20 to 100 of the birds needing to be picked up each day, according to their research.

“They die quite easily sometimes, and the farmers have to go in and pick them up manually,” said Jonathan.

“And there’s also biohazards and just different things we had to consider. That just led to a much bigger issue than we ever thought there was.”

From left to right: Eric Jonathan, Braydon Wharram, Matt Dantas, Chris Lanno, Jacqueline Malik, Nolan Soulliere and Andrei Teodorof.
The engineering project team for a dead chicken rover is pictured at the University of Windsor. From left to right: Eric Jonathan, Braydon Wharram, Matt Dantas, Chris Lanno, Jacqueline Malik, Nolan Soulliere and Andrei Teodorof. (Submitted by Braydon Wharram)

The design team was split up into different sections — including collection, disposal, electrical, coding and environmental — to develop the rover. 

“We had to bounce off materials, bounce off the whole barn, understand chicken behaviour, and it was just all put together … it worked really well,” Jonathan said. 

The rover’s chassis is about 60 by 60 centimetres, according to team member Braydon Wharram, to fit inside the rows of a barn.

Windsor Morning9:33Dead chicken robot

CBC Windsor Morning host Peter Duck speaks with University of Windsor engineering students about their robot project that removes dead chickens.

It has a scoop on the front and a storage system on the back that can dump out the dead birds, he said.

“So it’ll drive up to it,” said Wharram. “It’ll open its collection system and scoop under the chicken, and then it will pick it up and dump it in the storage system, and then it will continue on.

“And once it reaches a certain threshold in the storage system, it’ll go back to its docking station and dump out the chickens.”

The dead birds are detected by thermal and infrared cameras strapped to the rover, according to Jonathan.

“Basically it makes an assumption when it sees a nonmoving object and when it sees an unknown object, it would then detect the temperature. And if the temperature is below a certain threshold, then it would make that judgment that this is, in fact, deadstock and it would go ahead and pick it up.”

The machine has yet to be tested in an actual barn — instead they’ve used cold water bottles and hot water bottles so it can detect the difference.

The front of a University of WIndsor building

Wharram said safety is the biggest advantage to using the rover versus a farmer collecting deadstock. 

“The farmer is not having to walk through there and expose their lungs to harsh air. It’s also safer for the chickens because if [the rover] is moving very slowly, they’re not going to be disturbed by it,” Wharram said. 

“And as long as the deadstock’s picked up very fast, then that’s also safer for the chickens, because obviously having corpses around isn’t very healthy.”

Jonathan said the ultimate goal would be a fully autonomous machine. 

Their project advisor, Jeff Defoe, is a mechanical engineering professor at the university. He said the rover is a “perfect example” of finding solutions to problems to make life better for people.

“We’re taking something where there’s currently humans having to do work, which is inherently dangerous, and this is being able to replace that with a machine that is not subject to the ability to acquire diseases and things that you might have with a person,” Defoe said.

The project was on display Friday as part of an engineering open house at the University of Windsor’s Ed Lumley Centre for Engineering Innovation.


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