Nebraska team builds grain robot designed to keep farmers safe

Nebraska team builds grain robot designed to keep farmers safe
Cecil Smalley Photography
May 17th, 2021 | Annie Albin | University Communication

A pair of recent UNL graduates are working on a robot to keep grain farmers out of the grain bin.

Ben Johnson just graduated from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln with a degree in electrical engineering. Johnson, his father and teammate Zane Zents have created the robot, Grain Weevil.

The Grain Weevil is a small robot designed to maintain grain, eliminating the need for farmers to enter bins, which can be dangerous and even fatal.

The idea for the Grain Weevil came from a conversation between Johnson’s father, Chad, and an Aurora farmer. Ben Johnson was an underclassman at the time and had just completed his first major robotics project. Chad Johnson was talking about it with one of his friends from church.

“We showed him this robot and he said, ‘Hey, if you can build that robot, you could build me a robot to stay out of the grain bin,’” Chad Johnson said.

The Grain Weevil is a 30-pound remote-controlled robot that uses augers and gravity to level grain and redistribute it throughout the bin. It is portable, waterproof and dustproof. If it is accidentally buried, it can dig itself out of up to 5 feet of grain.

With the idea in place, the Johnsons got to work. Ben brought in his friend and former roommate Zents, who is also a computer science and mathematics major at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, to round out their skill set. After two years of trials and hundreds of hours of work, they finished the robot.

“We’re trying to keep farmers safe. We’re trying to keep our neighbors — our communities — from getting hurt,” Zents said. “

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