ERIE, Pa. — What if you could mow the lawn while sitting on your porch, in the shade, on a chaise lounge, with your feet up, your book open and only your drink sweating? Wouldn’t that be great?
“How could it not be?” asked Nick Drake, who recently graduated from Penn State Behrend with a degree in computer engineering. “Lawn care takes too much time. It’s summer. It’s nice out. There are a hundred things I would rather be doing, instead of pushing a mower back and forth.”
He found a better way. As part of a capstone research project, he and two classmates, Zachary Ley and Nicholas Self, designed and built a remote-control lawn mower. With funding from the Internet of Things (IoT) Research Lab at Behrend, they bought a Greenworks 13-inch electric push-mower. They took off the parts they didn’t need — the handle, the clippings bag, and the rear wheels, which they replaced with 2-inch pivoting casters — and then added several “smart” components, including a Raspberry Pi single-board computer.
The team programmed the Pi, which serves as a control unit, to transmit signals to and from the mower. That allowed them to operate the system with an Xbox controller. The left joystick steers the mower. The right trigger spins the cutting blade.