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Gadget Freak Case #203: Smart Recycle Can
1/17/2012

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Peter Riedo and his mechatronics lab group from Colorado State created the Automatic Recycler that tracks trash. Gadget Freaks not pictured include Sean Kalahar, Tino Tadiello, Randy Vieira, and Eric Swanstrom.
Peter Riedo and his mechatronics lab group from Colorado State created the Automatic Recycler that tracks trash. Gadget Freaks not pictured include Sean Kalahar, Tino Tadiello, Randy Vieira, and Eric Swanstrom.

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Beth Stackpole
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Mechatronics smarts a good thing
Beth Stackpole   1/17/2012 7:37:15 AM
I love this idea and the ingenuity it shows, particularly as mechatronics design is fast becoming a requisite skill set for engineers. So as I understand it, the bar code or touch screen delineates what kind of trash is going into the can and then there is some sort of sorting mechanism so things can be recycled more efficiently?? Seems like a concept that has legs for commercial implementation, if the design is right. Kudos to the team.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Mechatronics smarts a good thing
Rob Spiegel   1/17/2012 11:29:20 AM
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Yes, you're right Beth -- about how it works with the barcode (or manual entry of code via the touchpad). I'm not sure whether this really delivers meaningful efficiencies. But it's a fun project.

ceclimer
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Iron
Re: Mechatronics smarts a good thing
ceclimer   1/17/2012 4:10:12 PM
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I hope it works more reliably than the high tech washing machines so badly maligned elsewhere in these blogs.  Its a neat learning experience.  A real engineering test would be to install it by the vending machines in the student lobby.

williamlweaver
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Re: Mechatronics smarts a good thing
williamlweaver   1/17/2012 5:16:09 PM
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Applause! Fantastic project that demonstrates the integration of off-the-shelf components into an innovative system. Apart from the technical coolness, I wonder if the unit uses proximity or line-of-sight sensors to make sure the lid is clear before the lid flaps "do the dance". I can see a well-meaning student demonstrating the device to friends and inserting their hand a bit to far and for too long... The lid would make an effective shredder...

Charles Murray
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Importance of mechatronics
Charles Murray   1/17/2012 6:54:35 PM
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It's good to see that universities are emphasizing mechatronics. I just came across an interview I did with Tom Watson, who headed development of Ford Motor's powersplit hybrid architecture back in 2004. Watson says THE most important thing for engineers who want to design hybrids is mechatronics. Said Watson: "Mechatronics is going to be the key for all young engineers."

Alexander Wolfe
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Re: Mechatronics smarts a good thing
Alexander Wolfe   1/17/2012 7:01:10 PM
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That's a good idea, ceclimer. I'm wondering if we here at Design News should do some kind of student mechatronics gadget/device contest. Thoughts, anyone?

JimT@Future-Product-Innovations
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Automation Recycling will need complete fool-proofing
JimT@Future-Product-Innovations   1/18/2012 1:31:22 AM
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I give credit to the team for the innovation solution for sorting the recyclables.  But looking  a little deeper, one will quickly realize there is a psychological component needed as well.  Think about the average litterbug (thoughtless) vs. the average ecological person (thoughtful).  If a person needs to actually scan a piece of refuge prior to disposing of it, that person is an ecological (thoughtful person).  By the same means, the thoughtful person would have sorted the refuge into a separate container anyway, without the help of a "smart" sorter.  It rings as a reminder of the article from last week, where we all commented on how "More features doth not constitute product improvement". 

I like the thought of the container being smart, but the innovation will come when there is zero-thought-process needed on the part of the litterbug mentality.   – JimT.

Tool_maker
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Re: Automation Recycling will need complete fool-proofing
Tool_maker   1/18/2012 6:52:07 AM
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Jim, your thoughts are very close to mine on this. I think for every one of these Smart Trash Cans installed there better be a plain old dumb can or they will quickly be buried in a pile of refuse from people who either cannot figure how to make it work or are unwilling to take the time to fool with the gadgetry.

For example: I have a plastic lined drink box. Do I enter it as plastic or cardboard? Probably it just gets thrown in the trash and forgotten about.

This is a really cool example of engineering and reflects well on the designers, but it reminds me of a toy box from years ago. The box had a switch and when the switch was tripped, the lid slowly rose, a mechanical hand came out, flipped the switch off and withdrew as the lid closed. It was clever and fun, but really did nothing other than be clever and fun.

A drive to any local landfill will quickly demonstrate how eager people are to just throw things in the trash when recycling appears to be too much work.

RBPrice
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Iron
Re: Mechatronics smarts a good thing - sorta
RBPrice   1/18/2012 9:32:04 AM
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In my little town in up-state NY we dump all our recylable containers, glass, steel and aluminum, into one container.  The mixture is delivered by one of our Town trucks to a company that automatically sorts the material for further processing.  No thinking required except to keep the polymer and paper containers separate from the glass, steel and aluminum.

The thinking is done by the sensors not people as it should be in this day and age.

Rob Spiegel
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Blogger
Re: Mechatronics smarts a good thing
Rob Spiegel   1/18/2012 10:43:21 AM
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Good idea on the student mechatronics gadget contest, Alex. We could send out notices to engineering schools and bring in a judge (judges) from industry. The winners could be rewared by becoming Gadget Freaks.

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