STEM-In-Action Fall Follow Up: Cloudy with a Chance of Robotics

Welcome back to the STEM-In-Action Fall Follow Up, where we check in with our 21-22 STEM-In-Action Grant winning teams to see what they've accomplished since NJ&EE! The U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program (AEOP) awards STEM-In-Action Grants of up to $5,000 to eCYBERMISSION teams that wish to further develop and implement their projects in their communities. This year, five National Finalist and Regional Winning Teams took home the award. First up, Cloudy with a Chance of Robotics!

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Hello! We are team Cloudy With a Chance of Robotics, from Eagle, Idaho! Our team consists of Kavya Bansal, Kashvi Bansal, and Chinmay Tiwari. We are in different grades and go to different schools, but we all love STEM and helping our community. We are so grateful for this opportunity to further our project. Our goal with the STEM-In-Action Grant is to help the Idaho Foodbank with efficiently managing their warehouse space and inventorying their donations. 


Team Cloudy with a Chance of Robotics at the Idaho Foodbank

After volunteering at the Idaho Foodbank to sort donated food into different categories, we saw a problem we wanted to solve. It was sometimes difficult for us to sort the food, because we either didn’t know what it was, or we were undecided on whether to put it in one of two categories. For example, do you think canned chicken soup would go with meats, or soups? We know! It’s difficult to choose! These kinds of dilemmas significantly increase the time it takes for volunteers to sort donations, decreasing the amount of food they can sort in the set time of their volunteering. 


However, computers can do things a whole lot faster. This is why, with the help of our mentors, we designed and created a device to sort packaged food based on its nutrition label. The nutrition label can tell us exactly where we need to put the food, and it speeds up the volunteers’ work. Additionally, a computer will make consistent choices, while you may say meat when others say soup. 


Now, this was clever and all, but what the Idaho Foodbank really needed help with was their warehouse management, since they serve as a state-wide hub for donated food. Often, at very short notice, the Foodbank receives notifications that a company is sending a large shipment of donated food, and they need to assess if the warehouse can accommodate it. They need a way to do a quick and comprehensive inventory assessment and find out which bins are available and which are occupied. However, warehouse management is currently done manually. 


Stocked shelves at the Idaho Foodbank

We think we can offer help using the power of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI). Our proposed solution involves capturing footage of the storage bins in the warehouse using a contemporary drone and processing this video using computer vision and AI. We believe we can extract the data from the video and articulate the information similar to how a warehouse employee might do manually. This could mean knowing which bins are occupied and which items are stored in them. This will significantly increase the efficiency of their inventorying process from hours to minutes. 


We spent the last few months researching the appropriate hardware and are using the STEM-In-Action Grant prize to purchase the drone, computing platform, etc. to start work on this project. On a recent visit to the Foodbank, we discussed with Mr. Randy Ford, the Chief Operations Officer at the Idaho Foodbank, about inventory management and how to implement our solution. We also took videos and photos of the warehouse and different types of pellets and we started training an AI model to tell if they are empty or full. 


The team will use computer vision to communicate shelf contents

We look forward to seeing our solution come to life in the vast warehouse of the Idaho Foodbank and believe that the benefits can be meaningful. We have a passion for helping our community and changing the world for the better, and we hope our STEM-In-Action Grant project will do just that. 

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It's awesome to see team Cloudy with a Chance of Robotics using modern technology to tackle an age-old problem. We're excited to see the result!

Want to get in on the action? Registration for this year's eCYBERMISSION competition is now open at www.ecybermission.com/register.




Faith Benner
AEOP Sr. Communications and Marketing Specialist
fbenner@nsta.org

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