A senior class of MSU engineering students began working with Culinary Services (CS) on a capstone project in fall semester 2019 focused on building a robot that can sort silverware in our dish rooms. The project has been assigned to Brody Square, with the plan that it can be expanded to other locations in the future.
The ECE 480 team comprised of Daniel Roehl, Tyler Peterson, Spencer Scott, Josh Ward, David Zhang and Nick Brandt created a prototype that utilizes object recognition to detect silverware on a conveyor system and sort it into the proper storage unit based on type (i.e., fork, knife, spoon). At the end of fall semester, they exhibited what was achieved at the College of Engineering Design Day.
With their prototype, the team concluded that current maximum efficiency is approximately 18 pieces of silverware per minute. Successful recognition is achieved more than 80 percent of the time with optimal orientation and spacing. Additionally, sorting is nearly 50 percent accurate with room for improvement. Sorting mechanics are unreliable in their current state due to material friction, guide pitch and guide geometry.
The CS team is currently collaborating with the College of Engineering to continue this partnership and build on progress made. The initial team suggested looking at adding a separation method prior to the conveyor system to allow for utensils to be inserted in groups as opposed to individually. They also recommend refinement of the recognition model to allow for increased belt speed and incorporation of industrial grade materials such as a nitrile belt and more accurate sensors.
Dining Services Complex Manager Stacey Dawson is excited for the opportunity to continue the project. “The first capstone group we worked with were wonderful,” she shared. “What a great group of dedicated and energetic students!”
Updates will be shared in the future as the partnership grows and the project advances. In addition to collaborating with the Spartan community to innovate, the joint venture helps engineering students gain hands-on experience and achieve academic success.