CEDARVILLE, Ohio — When McKenzie Barlow began working on her senior design project, some people thought she was “udderly”ridiculous, but others were “mooved” with interest. Barlow, a senior electrical engineering major from Fork, Maryland, is currently working with her group on a senior engineering project — a Chick-fil-A retrieving cow robot.
Barlow is partnering with senior electrical engineering major Joshua Blackburn from Mount Gilead, and senior computer engineering majors Joshua Mundell from North Ridgeville, Ohio, and Andrew Murphy from lower Burrell, Pennsylvania.
The ultimate goal of the project is to create a robot that can navigate between the Engineering and Science Center (ENS) and the on-campus Chick-fil-A, which was built in 2020 and is part of the recently announced One Thousand Days Transformed: The Campaign for Cedarville, a $125 million fundraising effort. The robot will be equipped with a basket to carry meals between the buildings and a retractable arm that can open handicap doors.
There will be two primarily navigation tools. GPS will allow the robot to navigate longer distances and be used when the robot is outdoors, and a component, called Lidar, for use when the robot is inside. Barlow described Lidar as a combination of laser and radar, which uses an internal laser pointer that spins 360 degrees. The beams will shoot out of the Lidar to create a 2D rendering of the room the robot is traveling in. This will allow it to become more adaptable to stationary objects indoors.
“Getting the two forms of navigation to work seamlessly together will be difficult,” said Barlow. “Even though we’ve already turned in our plans for the project, a lot of the specifics of deciding how exactly the robot will navigate are still to be decided.”
The communication between the navigation system occurs in the Raspberry Pi, or the brain of the robot. Barlow says that the base of the robot looks like a walker on wheels.
“We will probably hide the base with a cow costume later,” Barlow joked. “Maybe nickname it the moo-mobile or something.”
Barlow and her group are working on the “moo-mobile” with primary advisor Dr. Vicky Fang, professor of computer engineering, who specializes in microcontrollers. They also have the help of Dr. Clint Kohl, senior professor of computer engineering, who is assisting with the robotics aspect of the project. Though Barlow knows there will be roadblocks, she feels confident that with the help of her team’s advisors, the robot can be fully functional by the end of spring semester, delivering sandwiches and waffle fries to engineering students in the ENS.
“The coding aspect and the use of Lidar are mostly unfamiliar to me,” Barlow said. “Working with new technology on this project is exciting, and I am thankful to have advisors and group members throughout the process.”
If the project is successful, Barlow hopes that it could remain on campus and potentially be expanded into a full-meal delivery service. Due to the continued need for quarantine meal delivery services because of COVID 19, Barlow sees a potential service opportunity for their robot to help isolated students.
“Those sorts of applications are far in the future, but if we can get our robot running smoothly, it could definitely become a permanent part of campus.”
Located in southwest Ohio, Cedarville University is an accredited, Christ-centered, Baptist institution with an enrollment of 4,715 undergraduate, graduate, and online students in more than 150 areas of study.