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This trash robot is on a mission to clean the Chicago River

This trash robot is on a mission to clean the Chicago River

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CHICAGO (Circa) -- It might not have the fanciest name, but it does something pretty fancy. The Trash Robot is on a mission to pick up trash in the Chicago River.

"Our rivers were kind of manufactured for shipping at the turn of the century," said Nick Wesley, co-founder of Urban Rivers, a Chicago nonprofit dedicated to reviving the rivers in the city. "And so we got rid of all the habitat. We’re trying to find solutions and ways to rehabilitate it and bring it back in an environment where you have steel walls as shore."

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Everyone can contribute to the river and make it something.
Nick Wesley, Urban Rivers

So Nick and his team decided to install floating gardens, which are meant to serve as wildlife habitat. But they found that they were getting littered with trash.

“We looked at ways we could get rid of it," said Wesley. "One is to get down and scoop it up. That worked for a while, but it was very unpredictable—the trash flows. So we decided to try and make a solution where we could clean it up with a robot.”

Controlled remotely from a computer, Urban Rivers hopes to turn Trash Robot into an online video game of sorts, where anyone can jump into one of two robots via webcam, collect trash and collect points.

The Trash Robot costs about $2,500 to make, and after a successful crowdfunding campaign, they have decided to make two. Both robots will debut sometime this summer.

“After testing it, we realized that this is great," said Wesley. "Let’s see if we can make it something that everyone can do. And everyone can contribute to the river and make it something—a bigger piece of cleaning up rivers in general.”

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