Last Friday, the University of San Diego's Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering students tested 'FRED,' a robot designed to clean the world's oceans.
The tests were part of an internship program that allows students to help design the unmanned, semi-autonomous, solar-powered, plastic waste-removing vehicle.
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Removing ocean debris
As described in a University of San Diego post, Zach Sourwine, Cameryn Seymour, Jazmyn Gonzalez, and Desmond Jones tested their solar-powered semi-autonomous robot, FRED (Floating Robot to Eliminate Debris) by making it recover ping-pong balls from Mission Bay, do long-distance trips and perform autonomous navigation.
The university released a video of the tests below, in which students can be seen controlling the robot with an Xbox controller:
The students worked on FRED over the summer through an internship program with Clear Blue Sea, a San Diego based non-profit that is one of the many new startups aiming to tackle the worrying amount of plastic pollution in our oceans.
In the San Diego Uni post, Sourwine, a mechanical engineering student, talked about the impact the project has had on him: “I hope to do something with sustainability engineering in the future,” he said. “I think this really sparked a passion for it.”
Now that these students have finished their internships, the project will be passed onto new students, who will continue to build on this group's work.
An ambitious undertaking
As the Ocean Cleanup project's recent breakdown attests, cleaning our oceans is no easy task. So any new development is a welcome sight. However, campaigners are calling for more of a focus on tackling the problem at its source, rather than dealing with it once it's already out at sea.
Nevertheless, there is a huge amount of plastic out there that needs to be cleaned up, so much so that one group has created a petition for the Pacific garbage patch to be named a nation-state by the EU - the patch is currently as large as France, and is still growing.