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Presented By:
David Dorhout
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Tell us briefly about your project. Is it a work of art or does it serve another function?

Prospero is the working prototype of an Autonomous Micro Planter (AMP) that uses a combination of swarm and game theory and is the first of four steps. It is meant to be deployed as a group or "swarm". The other three steps involve autonomous robots that tend the crops, harvest them, and finally one robot that can plant, tend, and harvest--autonomously transitioning from one phase to another.

When did you start working on this project and how long did it take you to complete?

I first came up with the idea for Prospero early in the summer of 2007 and I completed the robot that I’m now calling Prospero (ver1) in the Fall of 2010. It took me around 2 ½ years in part because at the beginning I knew very little about electronics and programing and had to learn it on the way while building it in my spare time. I learned it by teaching myself through a number of Parallax’s robotic and electronic books and projects.

What was your goal in building this project?

My goal in building the project was to build a robot that could be used as part of a swarm which would be able to plant seeds autonomously.

Does your project help to solve a problem? If so what problem?

The concept behind Prospero is to increase the productivity of the land which would in turn feed more people, lower food prices, and allow more land to be left “wild.”

What makes your idea unique?

Prospero and swarm farming are different than current farming which focuses on increasing the productivity of a person who is directly controlling the equipment like driving a tractor. I think that the problem with the idea of a single person/operator farming 1,000 acres (~1.5 square miles) is that they have to make farming decisions (when to plant, what type of seed, fertilizer, when to harvest) at the field level. A swarm of robots like Prospero would be able evaluate literally each square inch and tend each plant in the field. I think that this would lead to substantial yield boost

In what capacity are you using bearings and what type of bearings?

Every joint (18) of Prospero used a sealed, flanged bearing.

What is the most important thing you want people to know about your project?

The thing that I want people to know is that we now have the technology to reevaluate the way that we farm and I think that we can substantially increase yields by using small, inexpensive autonomous robots that farm as a swarm.

How will you use the $5,000 prize?

I would use the $10,000 prize to work on building the second version of Prospero that would also be able to ”tend” the field as outlined in my video. This prize money would also allow me to build 6-9 of the “Prospero Ver2.0” and conduct small, demonstration field trials and work on the swarm communication/programing. It would be a huge boost to the project!

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