A low-cost and low-maintenance aquatic Roomba
The beginnings of the Catlin Gabel InvenTeam can be traced back to Sunriver, Oregon, where residents disliked how local Aspen Lake was infested with rotting, unattractive, and smelly duckweed. Simultaneously, Catlin engineering students discovered the Lemelson-MIT national InvenTeams program, an annual grant given to 15 high school groups every year to pursue projects in STEM fields. Thus, we combined the two interests to pursue ScumBot, a low-cost and low-maintenance aquatic Roomba designed to skim and remove aquatic surface vegetation such as duckweed and algae from small lakes and ponds.
ScumBot was designed to fight the common problem of eutrophication, where an excessive amount of nutrients and demand for biological oxygen depletes resources in an ecosystem, therefore killing off life in the area. In response, the Catlin Gabel InvenTeam created a fleet of autonomous robots to address this problem. The design of ScumBot contains two conveyor belts, the first of which collects the duckweed, while the other holds and drains the material before dumping it onto a designated location on shore.
Scumbot also offers a substantial reduction in the cost of removing the vegetation in comparison with the other methods of removal that currently exist. With this invention, we are able to serve a niche in the market for both small bodies of water and for bodies of water whose ecosystems are fragile or protected. ScumBot is also substantially less expensive than other methods of fighting eutrophication, the likes of which usually cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, while ScumBot only cost around $10,000 per robot. Our invention would be the first in a new category of inexpensive environmentally friendly yet effective methods for removal of surface vegetation.