Environmental education robots

These projects focus on engaging school-aged students and the citizen science communities with robotic technology to increase awareness on environmental issues and encouraging broader “on-the-ground” action to help mitigate these problems.

Plastic Waste Elimination Challenge

In 2017, in collaboration with Manuela Toboaba and Tim Williams from the QUT School of Design we developed the “Plastic Waste Elimination Challenge” for QUT’s Robotronica event in 2017, which encouraged visitors to collect as much floating rubbish as possible using a small robotic boat. In the challenge, each coloured ball represented a different litter type and as they users collected more balls, their positive impact on the environment was relayed to them via a real-time tablet-base interface. A refined version was showcased at the 2018 World Science Festival Brisbane in collaboration with The Great Barrier Reef Foundation which used actual litter items (e.g. plastic bottles, plastic bags, plastic straws). This project is now developing a design “hackathon” to engage students from primary to tertiary institutions to design new robotic concept systems to with the goal of being built and used for interactive waterway litter collection and increasing environmental awareness.

How can community groups use robots for upscaling crown-of-thorns control programs?

This project undertook the world’s first known engagement and assessment of school students’ use of novel underwater robots with the specific aim of improving the interface and utility of the technology to help upscale the control of Crown-Of-Thorns Starfish (COTS) (Acanthaster planci) on the Great Barrier Reef (GBR). Specific targeted users were non-tech-savvy community members and key stakeholders who may wish to engage with, and utilise, advanced robotic tools for protecting the GBR and reefs worldwide.

To gain this information, QUT researchers conducted a series of surveys and controlled trials with geographically dispersed Queensland schools that offer senior marine science classes, as well as members of the Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators (AMPTO) during 2016-2017. The outcomes from the project were a set of insights, guidelines and interface requirements that maximise the appeal of advanced robotic technologies to a diverse user group. Increasing the appeal and usability of this technology will support its adoption into larger marine pest monitoring and management programs. The learnings from this project have now been incorporated into the RangerBot Autonomous Underwater Vehicle user interface.

This project was supported by donations from QUT alumni, the Dalio Foundation and the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation Eldon and Anne Foote Advised Trust.



Chief Investigators