July 21, 2020

Carrot harvesting made easy

Students from the University of Stuttgart design innovative planting and harvesting machines in the 27th design competition.

Which machine best plants and harvests carrots? In the task assignment for the 27th design competition, the Institute of Design and Production in Precision Engineering (IKFF) included aspects of a current topic from spring 2020. The students had to develop machines that are able to put down and pick up objects. Simply put, the machines should be usable as planting and harvesting aids.

The IKFF could not imagine a year without a design competition. For this reason, Eberhard Burkard and his colleagues at the institute offered the competition again this year, albeit in a virtual form, to students who are in the 4th semester of the Mechanical Engineering and Automotive and Engine Engineering study programs. The task, Burkard thought, was actually quite simple: “Before you can harvest carrots, you must first plant seeds.” Specifications that had to be observed included weight, the initial size, and energy supply.

Since it was a virtual competition in 2020, the jury was only able to judge these details, as well as all other information about the machines, on the basis of the design documents submitted by the student groups. Therefore, this year the documentation had to be much more detailed than in previous years. It took up to 200 pages to present every detail as well as its functionality, and list every single screw along with its weight. A few of the machines had predictable problems already with the first task: distributing the seeds into designated planting holes. The seeds must be placed individually and accurately. If they are all placed in one hole, a bad harvest can be expected.

The students also had to pay a lot of attention in regard to the harvesting of the carrots: How are the carrots picked? Is the machine even in the right position? Where to put the harvest? And how long does it all take? These were some of the problems whose solutions were assessed by the jury. In the end, the winners were selected: those machines that can sow the seeds accurately and harvest the carrots in the shortest possible time.

The winning teams of the design competition are:

1st prize: Ronja Steinbach, Laura Loimayr, Samed Ceylan, David Francisco
2nd prize: Tina Löser, David Holtz, Hannes Petrenz, Michael Zander
3rd prize: Helena Dold, Clara Krächan, Franziska Sievert, Matthias Lang

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