Ottawa woman creates Bowie the beach-cleaning robot

An Ottawa woman has turned her love of robotics into a way to have a "direct positive effect on the environment" with her beach-cleaning robot named Bowie.

4-wheeled robot inspired by Mars rover, named after late singer

Erin Kennedy and her beach-cleaning robot named Bowie. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

An Ottawa woman has turned her love of robotics into a way to have a "direct positive effect on the environment" with her beach-cleaning robot named Bowie. 

"With robotics, when you apply it to some sort of social impact, you'll be able to see how technology can really impact the world and change it for the better," Erin Kennedy told Giacomo Panico on CBC Radio's In Town And Out.

The design of the colourful, four-wheeled robot was inspired by the Mars rover and named in honour of David Bowie on the day the singer died earlier this year. The machine was created with a 3D printer to scoop up shoreline debris with its front claw — and Kennedy hopes it's just the beginning.

You'll be able to see how technology can really impact the world and change it for the better.- Robot builder Erin Kennedy

"One day, the robots will make it more efficient to sweep up this debris, especially when it becomes smaller fragments of plastic, which poses a huge risk to the birds that accidentally ingest this, mistaking this for food."

It was a sports injury that prompted Kennedy to start building robots when she was 13.

"I needed something to keep me entertained so I got a Lego Minestorms kit and just started building robots. Since then I've been hooked," she said.

"My passion for robotics comes from mainly wanting to create something that's sort of like its own being, its own creature that can go out into the world and explore."

Kennedy plans to be at Westboro Beach from 10 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. on Saturday to test her robot.

Bowie the robot picks up a can of beer from Westboro Beach. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)