Remote Activated Enrichment Dispersal Unit

Project number: 
Reid Park Zoo
Academic year: 
Enrichment items are an essential aspect of animal care within zoos. Traditionally, zookeepers remove the animals from their habitats, then manually stage the enrichment items before bringing the animals back. The team designed this device to reduce animal dependency on and interaction with zookeepers, while making animal enrichment more efficient.

They modeled the design after a standard chain-driven bucket elevator, sometimes seen in industrial and agriculture settings. The team designed a frame built with reinforced 2x4 and 4x4 lumber to emphasize structural integrity, longevity and animal safety. Equipped with a total of six buckets, the device can be pre-loaded with up to three enrichment items at a time. The team also custom designed sprockets to provide proper tension to the chain and reduce wobbling of the item-bearing buckets.

The system is driven by a 1/8 horsepower motor that uses gear ratio advantage to ensure adequate torque to move the weight of the fully loaded system. The device automatically tracks the positioning of the buckets to ensure proper delivery of enrichment items using a limit switch and Arduino controller. Zookeepers can activate the device remotely using a 433 MHz transmitter and receiver, which enables the deployment of the preloaded items individually at any time.

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