Using the latest in recreational-Lego technology, an Alberta boy builds on cutting-edge autonomous farm technology
CALGARY – The imagination of a farm machinery builder might be surpassed only by that of a kid.
Seedmaster founder Norbert Beaujot once dreamed of farm machinery rolling about a field with no one to drive — just working away, efficiently and reliably. The result was the 2017 debut of the DOT, autonomous field platform.
The Regina, machinery builder felt a step-change in farming systems was overdue because tradition was trumping practicality and technology’s ability to move agriculture forward.
While the new tool has captured the imaginations of many producers, the imagination of 13-year old Luke Silinski of Beiseker, Alta., was also grabbed.
“It’s a mini-DOT. Official Lego. A fully autonomous field unit, but smaller and made of Lego,” Silinski said while attending the Farm Forum Event held last month in Calgary.
Silinski used the farming technology and ideas forum to meet DOT advocates and show off his own take on the technology.
Beaujot’s DOT is built using a variety of tools, both electronic (the Microsoft tablet platform it runs on) and diesel (a Cummins Tier 4 Final engine), but Salinski’s mini-DOT uses Lego technology that is no less impressive, although in a smaller, recreational sort of way.
Mindstorm is Lego’s version of machine programming that can control battery-powered electric motors performing a variety of duties. Using RCX Code, and in some cases ROBOLAB, developed by Tufts University, it is a capable command-box programming platform that can support third-party languages as complex as Python and Robot or open source versions of C-language, among others.
Silinski’s miniDOT replicates a DOT air seeder with an additional on-board sprayer unit. Based on the Mindstorm EV3 platform, his machine has motors that move and navigate the machine, sensors and an EV3 programmable brick, as well as a wireless remote control.
“It can lift and drop the seeder and follow a path by itself,” he said, crediting his mother, Shanyn, for first drawing his attention to the original DOT.
“I saw it and knew it could be done in Lego,” he said.
“I’ve got plans. DOT 2.0 is going to be bigger — twice as big — and it’s going to have some other implements: grain cart, a sprayer with automated booms and other pieces. But, like Seedmaster DOT, those are a secret for now, but in development.
“If you are a good visual learner, you can figure out how to make these things work. It takes some imagination, though.
“If you are going to be at Ag in Motion near Saskatoon next summer or at Farm Forum next year, I will have mini-DOT 2.0 ready by then.”