Editor's note: This story has been corrected.
The future of golfing is in robots.
At least, that’s what LeTourneau University students believe.
A group of electrical and computer engineering senior design students have developed a robot to keep Canada geese off golf courses.
The BADG-R, big amphibious durable goose remover, robot can detect and chase geese away from a golf course, said project leader Byron Coffin.
The project is sponsored by A&K Systems, a pest management company in the Silicon Valley.
Assistant professor of electrical engineering Hoo Kim briefly met the CEO and president of A&K Systems, Kyung Yi, during a trip to the Silicon Valley with some students. After telling Yi about the senior design projects his students have done, Kim said Yi wanted to sponsor a project for something to keep geese off golf courses.
From there, students spent about eight months working on the project, Coffin said.
“When A&K initially proposed this project, we didn’t realize how big of a problem geese are on golf courses,” he said.
He added that as much as $250,000 is spent annually on Professional Golfers Association courses on cleanup caused by the birds.
Coffin said few solutions already available for the geese issue are effective.
“Some people just put dogs out there and let the dogs chase the geese, but obviously they can’t go for very long and that’s hard to keep them focused,” he said. “There are other products that chase geese. But when we were talking with the sponsor, he was saying even the companies that sell them say, ‘These don’t work. We know they don’t work, but it’s better than nothing,’ so the golf courses will still buy them. So they needed something that was actually proven to work.”
From that need, BADG-R was born.
Taylor Adamek, mechanical and engineering lead, said when the team first started creating prototypes of the robot, it was difficult to create a model that could function both on land and in water.
Eventually, the team developed a model that had a waterproof box to hold all the electronic components inside, wheels for land, propellers for water and foam to help it float, he said.
Coffin said once the mechanical team figured out the model, the electrical team had to figure out what would go inside while the computer team worked on coding and software.
The robot follows a path created with a GPS system, and if it detects a goose, it will veer off path to chase the goose away, Coffin said. Then it will get back on path and eventually go back to its base.
To detect geese and not chase off innocent golfers, Coffin said the students uploaded about 8,000 photos of geese to a system that trained the robot to chase only geese.
A camera attached to the robot takes photos of everything it chases and uploads them to a server, so whoever is using the robot can later see if it is chased something it shouldn’t have and correct the problem, he said.
Kim said the students will attend the International Symposium on Measurement and Control in Robotics on Sept. 19 in Houston to present their project.
“Our students worked really well. That’s why a Silicon Valley company invested in them,” he said. “I really appreciate our students, their passion and hard work for this achievement.”