A few years ago, a London-based food delivery company approached Fanshawe College because they had so much trouble finding and retaining enough drivers to meet demand. After hearing about the challenge, Brent Matthews, a faculty member in the School of Applied Science and Technology, enlisted his students. Together, they’ve designed a delivery robot that may prove instrumental in overcoming barriers to unmanned delivery worldwide.
For students, the project was a culmination of all of their academic experience rolled into one, Mr. Matthews reports.
“A vehicle running down the sidewalk in the middle of winter in Winnipeg would face different challenges than one driving down sunny California Boulevard. That led us to electric wheelchair wheels, which have technology that has been tested for decades and provides reliable traction even in adverse weather conditions.”
Next up was figuring out how to design an appropriate cargo container for food delivery, placing themselves in the position of the client and trying to understand how a customer would interact with a robot. “We talked about how customers could unlock the cargo container doors in a way that kept the food safe during transport. We had to think about how to keep someone in London’s downtown bar strip from riding the robot like a rodeo bull for a block when it is trying to deliver someone’s Pad Thai. We tried to think about all the potential scenarios for interaction and use that to create our design specifications.”
By the third term, the students were ready to start fabricating, and the prototype is now being tested. Built in are options for GPS-style telemetry, communication with dispatchers and self-learning capabilities.
A design engineer prior to joining Fanshawe’s faculty more than three years ago, Mr. Matthews says he continues to be inspired by its learning environment. “Passion is welcomed and supported here – and Fanshawe graduates add tremendous value to local and global businesses as well as society as a whole.”
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.