Use of Robotics to support Algalita research into the Pacific garbage patch

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I finally got to meet Capt Charles Moore the captain of  the research vessel Alguita that has been used by the Algalita Marine Research Institute to collect samples from the Pacific gyre that has 6x more plastic than algae by weight.   He gave a joint talk in Seal Beach with Ed Humes the author of Garbology.  I also bought an autographed copy of  Capt Moore’s book called Plastic Ocean to help support their cause.  I have been a supporting member of the Institute for a few years now because I really like what they are doing.

It has been in the back of my mind to get our robotic students involved some way.   I spoke to Capt. Moore and Bill Francis (their president) to see if they were interested in collaborating.   They said yes and I sent them the following email which had a few positive responses.  If anyone has ideas in this area , let me know.

Email text :>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

oh yeah – the O’side talk involved Gwen and me with Fred Mertz whom we met at the ESRI convention here in SD.  He’s trying to do hyperspectral analysis of the plastic samples.  I need to ping on him to see what progress he has made.

On Wed, Aug 29, 2012 at 4:18 PM, Bill Francis, Algalita Marine Research Foundation <> wrote:

Thanks, Nikhil.  Gwen, this represents a really interesting possibility.  Charlie had suggested Nikhil speak with him because of some contacts that were made at the Oceanside event a few weeks back, regarding another possibility for automation.  If you were not in those conversations, you may want to review those with Nikhil.
My thought is that if we can utilize the robotic potential, we can analyze more samples in the same amount of time.  That would allow us to get more and more information, as you have indicated we need, several times, in order to be statistically accurate.  It also engages the very types of students that will advance our cause as they learn about the plastic pollution challenges, and perhaps choose a career in our field.  Because of this, I am also copying Katie; these students could be a wonderful addition to our POPs leadership training in October.
I’d like to give this a priority for evaluation, if we could.
Bill Francis, President, Algalita Marine Research Institute      O: 562-598-4889     C: 562-896-7416
“We will eliminate plastic waste.  Each and every one of us must change the way in which we approach packaging and single use materials.  Our resolve will overcome all obstacles as we do what is right for our oceans and the rest of our world.”
 To:  Dr Nikhil Dave’ and Gwen Latting;
Algalita Marine Research Institute
I spoke with Capt Charles Moore and Bill Francis in Seal Beach the other day at their talk .  He said that Dave’ is supporting Algalita with some work that involves visual categorization I think.  He suggested I contact you to get your ideas.  Also, I am interested in the lab protocols and needs that Gwen may help with.
I mentor two high school robotic teams (1508 Grant High School  and 599 Granada Hills Charter High School) and was looking for possible ways they could leverage their robotic skills to help Algalita and get involved with the environmental community.    The kids build a robotic composter last Spring but I want to get them involved in the plastic reduction cause.
I was thinking a robot can either help collect  samples or process the samples in the lab.
Sampling:  Perhaps  an underwater robot that samples plastic around the mouth of the LA rivers  more often than after large rains might be possible.   It could be moble or stationary.   It would need a good visual inspection sensor that could count particles suspended in the water and distinguish them from non plastic stuff.  We might not have the technology that can do this accurately yet…but I wanted to run it by you.  At Lockheed we developed a laser air data system that used reflected light off atmospheric dust particles to measure air speed.  Is there something like that available for underwater use?
Processing samples in the lab:
Bill said that this  is really where Algalita needs help because lab work is very labor intensive and you only have a few techs.   Perhaps there is something that a robot can do to presort or clean samples to assist the lab techs.
Look forward to hearing from you both,
Chris Siegert
Retired Lockheed Avionics and Control System Engineer.
Mentor for 599 and 1508 Vex/First Robotics teams.

One Response to Use of Robotics to support Algalita research into the Pacific garbage patch

  1. […] Use of Robotics to support Algalita research into the Pacific garbage patch […]

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