WWF's Conservation Innovation Awards

Gathering votes
Gathering votes

WALL-E 2.0

This is a Paraparaumu College senior robotics and Paraparaumu College Societal, Environmental and Animal Rights Action Group (SEAR) project, the purpose of which is to design and build a robot capable of autonomously cleaning a section of beach the size of an Olympic swimming pool of pieces of rubbish between the size of a bottle cap and up to and including the size of a plastic 3L milk bottle. The robot must be able to clean two 1250m2 sections of beach of 80% of the rubbish found in each area within a two and a half hour period by term 4 in 2018.

The final robot must be presentable and acceptable to the public using the beach where it is operating, this entails that it should be such that the chances of members of the public impeding it in it's work are minimal.

The robot will be required to start at a home base position and make it's way to the first section to be cleaned. The robot shall locate items of rubbish using its own robot vision system with a camera mounted on a mast.

An advanced task would be to use a robot drone system which would overfly the area to be cleaned and generate a rubbish map for the robot to follow. Should this be the case the beach robot will use the drone generated rubbish map to navigate to each rubbish item at which point it will use it's own robot vision system to identify the rubbish item followed by it's collection. Should the robot come across an item of rubbish it cannot remove, due to its size or nature, the robot should take a picture of the rubbish item and note it's location using GPS to allow retrieval by a person.

Once the robots rubbish bin becomes full it should make it's way back to the base station where it will unload it's rubbish to a base station receptacle before returning to the beach to continue the cleaning process.

All of the above should be completed in an autonomous fashion with no human intervention. The robot should also have the ability for a human operator to use it in a fully manual mode.

The final competition will be in the latter part of term 4 2018 in which the robot will have to demonstrate it's ability to complete the assigned task. Along with this project and the completion of the robot, we are hoping to educate the public more on ocean pollution and littering through SEAR's channels. However, we must secure funds if we are to follow through with this whole idea.

The Paraparaumu College robotics team have previously constructed multiple remote controlled and autonomous robots that are capable of identifying people on the street and maneuvering around them.  Recently the robotics club completed demonstrations for local schools, the Kapiti Mayor and the Otaki MP Nathan Guy. This year in 2017 SEAR received an award for Education and Child Youth development from the Wellington Airport Regional Community Awards including a $1000 prize. SEAR Environmental focuses on building knowledge about environmental issues, and how youth can become leaders of positive environmental change as well as having previously successfully followed through with environmental projects collaborating with our local council.


What conservation problem are you trying to solve?

Ocean Pollution and Littering.

How are you going to solve this conservation problem?

Creating a robot which can regularly go out during the week and clean up the amount of litter within a beach can be revolutionary as we face issues like ocean pollution and litter. Litter on beaches can impact a numerous amount of different things. Rubbish being a huge contributer to ocean pollution is hazardous for ships and divers and also the marine life and ecosystems itself, effecting other New Zealand cultural aspects like the gathering of kaimoana. The amount of videos you see on social media of marine life being strangled/suffocated by litter debris or even possibly witnessing such crimes yourself in person is an issue which needs to be solved for the sake of marine life and ecosystems. Having a beach cleaning robot could potentially change the game for the cluttered path our beaches and oceans are heading towards and can potentially change public perception for everybody to realise that littering is not ok.

Related Links: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qT-rOXB6NI


What makes your idea new and unique?

We wanted to create something innovative in a way where it actually truly solves something instead of creating something which can only document a specific environment state. Creating a beach cleaning robot much like the disney's version of WALL-E for example (though litter will not be crushed into walls, nor will it physcially look like 'Wall-E'), we realised while researching for this project that creating a type of 'WALL-E' hasn't really been done before. This idea pushes the boundaries of robot use to be created into something exceptionally helpful for the earth and is unique in a way that is modern and almost futuristic. What also makes this idea unique is that this is a youth-led idea and project, encouraging rangatahi to be leaders in conservation, however there will also be support and help from local adult team members with this robot project, including further help with financial management.

Who will use your idea, and how will they benefit?

Any robot constructed will be used by Paraparaumu Colllege in conjuction with the Kapiti Council to clean local beaches.  Any maintenance and enhancements will be provided by Paraparaumu College robotics and SEAR, the Kapiti Council and local team members.

The robot will benefit by keeping rubbish including plastic out of our environment and reduce impact to native flora and fauna.  Further, upon being successful enhancements will be considered to further expand to multiple robots with potential deployment beyond the Kapiti Coast.

Any organisations or companies or groups around the world can use this idea to face the issue of ocean pollution in their own area once this robot is completed. Countries which face a huge amount of litter on their beaches and struggles to keep this area maintained can benefit from this robot by using it for the reasons above.


What tasks or activities do you need investment for? How would you spend a $25,000 grant?

The funding would need go towards various different things for the robot such as funds for hardware, engineering services for any custom made mechanical parts, software and transport - all which is referred to in our file link below.

Are you a New Zealand citizen or resident?


I have read and agree to the Crowdicity Terms of Use, the Conservation Innovation Awards 2017 Supplemental Terms and Conditions, and the Crowdicity Privacy Policy


List five other ideas posted in the challenge that excite you. Why?

1) The Baleen Filter

We recognise that microfibres, though small, leave an effect to our marine biodiversity. Having the Baleen filter prevents these microfibres from entering the ocean - and that is what could save countless of marine life and ecosystems.

2) Restoring the oceans abundance using seawater electrolysis

We as rangatahi realise that our oceans are dying and want to live in a future where the ocean looks lively - not dead. This project demonstrates a simple but effective way on how kiwis can use technology in New Zealand marine conservation to restore the health of our oceans.


An app which can transmit real-time data about the amount of E-COLI in the area you’re about to swim in greatly reduces the risk of human contact with polluted water. This app could potentially save lives and health problems that kiwis could face.

4) Hanging Gardens of New Zealand

Increasing biodiversity in urban areas is beneficial as more houses are being built, so that no matter where you are in NZ, you can still be surrounded by nature and native plants, which also improves the air and water quality in these areas.

5) Subscribe to a Marine Reserve

We realise the importance of marine reserves and how important it is to be knowledgeable about them, considering that we live right next to one of the biggest reserves in New Zealand. Using this app, anybody in a community to have a platform where they can learn more about their marine ecosystem which is important!


How could you improve your idea?

Conversing with a school in the U.A.E, who a few years ago, tried to do something similar, approached some issues which they didn’t know how to solve, therefore gave up - however we think we know how we can overcome them.

The biggest issue for them was getting the robot to tell between garbage and authentic debris.They gave us a list of solutions they tried, but failed.

But the PC robotics club came up with the idea that to overcome this was through sound. When you touch anything plastic it makes distinct sounds either crinkling or a plastic touch sound. Robot vision also being combined with touch may well be the answer - there should be no reason why this shouldn’t be a successful project!

They also gave us some tips which could be applied to WALL-E 2.0


  1. Tank tracks not wheels


  1. High enough so it doesn't get wet in a little water.


  1. Use gears, both for picker upper device and for motors.


  1. Basket should be as lightweight as possible.

Once WALL-E 2.0 is completed, local demonstrations will be done to engage with the community about WALL-E 2.0 - also bringing in talks about ocean pollution and litter and what we can do to follow WALL-E 2.0’s footsteps. We could even build a website discussing WALL-E 2.0’s journey with the amount of rubbish he’s found on the beach, creating him into an influential robot which encourages people to stop littering and also explaining how ocean pollution is affecting our ocean - including Aotearoa’s cultural aspects.

edited on Oct 6, 2017 by Maha Fier

Megan Somerville Oct 4, 2017

kia ora. I really like that you have submitted a proposal that is practical, offers opportunities to educate others, and has the potential to be replicable. I wonder if you have looked what has come out of curious minds https://www.curiousminds.nz/ and #ParticipatoryScience? Both have example of using robotics for conservation purposes. If/when this project is successful are you thinking of commercially developing the idea? or is the focus on educating others?

Ngā mihi


Maha Fier Oct 4, 2017

Kia Ora Megan,
Thank you! Yes, Curious Minds is an amazing organisation with lots of initiatives coming from there! Our focus for this project is to clean up the beach and to continue to educate the community about how technology can positively impact the environment.


rose b Oct 4, 2017

such an awesome, unique idea! would love to see it become a reality.


Maha Fier Oct 4, 2017

Thank you Rose! Glad you think so.


Penny Cliffin Oct 5, 2017

What an amazing idea! I can't seem to find the 'like' button on your panel?


Maha Fier Oct 5, 2017

Kia Ora Penny,

Thank you! We were lucky enough to have 30 votes for our idea (the way you voted was through pressing the like button) and as we passed that milestone - the liking button went away since we got enough votes! Thank you for letting us know that you think the idea is amazing :)


Becky Wilson Oct 6, 2017

The idea has been progressed to the next milestone


Jack Penman Oct 6, 2017

Maha had the imagination and drive to get this far. As an engineer I can see all sorts of challenges in this project and I would like nothing better than to see them solved by Maha and her team. Maha's age group are the future and the earlier we show them they can do anything the better. Because then they will go on and do exactly that!