University students submit innovative and unique projects to the TiM$10K Challenge with ideas that could change the world

For the second year, students from around the United States submitted projects for SICK’s TiM$10K Challenge. With each project, students develop industry-changing products using LiDAR technology from SICK that solves a problem, creates a solution, or brings a new application to any industry that could utilize SICK LiDAR.

The TiM$10K Challenge was originally created for the 2018-2019 school year to support student innovation and student achievement in automation and technology. Now in its second year, the level of creativity from the students has only increased.

Teams who signed up for the challenge were supplied with a 270° SICK LiDAR sensor (TiM) and accessories. The challenge was to solve a problem using SICK LiDAR. With endless possibilities, SICK received submissions that ranged from an anti-theft product for construction sites to a solution to extend single-beam LiDAR to full resolution. Ultimately, only the top three won prizes.

“There’s an opportunity for a business to get started from any of these projects. These are high-quality products with great market value that all provide improvements to the industry,” said SICK, Inc. CEO Tony Peet. “We’re extremely proud of all the students who participated.”

Contest Background

Each team was asked to submit a video and paper for judging upon completion of the project. A panel of judges decided the winning submissions based on creativity and innovation, ability to solve a customer problem, commercial potential to productize and market the application, entrepreneurship of the team, and reporting.

The three winning teams of the TiM$10K won a cash award of $10K for first place, $5K for second place, and $3K for third place. In addition to bragging rights and the cash prize, the first place team, along with the advising professor, will go on an all-expense paid trip to Germany to visit the SICK headquarters and manufacturing facility in Waldkirch.

The winners of the 2020 TiM$10K Challenge were recently announced and they are:

First Place – Automating Road Conditions Data Collection

Team 1 from Worcester Polytechnic Institute created an innovative product called the ROADGNAR. The product the students created utilizes the SICK LiDAR to create a more efficient process for road condition analysis in order to save time, save money, and improve driver safety.

There is a large backlog in roadway maintenance projects across the country, which makes it challenging for various local governments to prioritize preventive methods of pavement management. The ROADGNAR detects, analyzes, and measures potholes, cracks, and other things that cause roadways to be in poor condition. With this data, local governments can better prioritize what roads need to be repaired first based on the condition.

“It was a wonderful learning experience [the TiM$10k] getting to use such an awesome, high-quality sensor to actually solve a problem with a project we had been working on for over a year. It was an awesome experience,” said Daniel Pelaez, member of Team 1 from Worcester Polytechnic Institute.

Second Place – Theft Prevention on Construction Sites

According to the National Equipment Register and the National Insurance Crime Bureau, approximately $300 million to $1 billion of machinery, tools, appliances, and materials are stolen from construction sites every year. Because of this, the second place team, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, developed the L-PUPP, a device intended to detect when a theft is occurring at a construction site. The L-PUPP, or LiDAR Portable Ultimate Protection Product, is a versatile, responsive, and easy-to-use system that, once activated, monitors whatever materials or equipment the user requires. In this case, the team of students intended it for use on construction sites to prevent the theft of materials and tools left on site.

The device contains a SICK TiM781 LiDAR sensor in a compact casing. A 5-megapixel camera is attached to the front for visual feedback as well. L-PUPPs can be installed all around a construction site to detect any unauthorized breaches onto the site. Once installed, the LiDAR sensors will constantly monitor the distance to all objects in user-defined regions. If a breach or violation is detected, the L-PUPPs report back to a cloud server and notifies the user which area of the site had a breach. A camera will also capture a picture of the breach for later review.

Third Place – Extending Single Beam LiDAR to Full Resolution

The use of 3D LiDAR has become increasingly common, but sometimes the cost of 3D sensors can be prohibitive. The team from Rochester Institute of Technology took third place with a solution that uses a 2D LiDAR sensor and a camera to extend single beam LiDAR to full resolution.

With this solution, companies using automated mobile robots can use a less cost prohibitive solution that also provides a comparatively higher resolution at a much faster rate, with the ability to determine per-pixel depth. This opens an opportunity for all applications that demand high-resolution information at a considerably lower cost.

Honorable Mention – Evaluating Road Markings

Finally, the team from Michigan Technological University received an honorable mention for their innovative product that aims to help resolve issues caused by poor road markings while also reducing maintenance costs and improving motorist safety. With the SICK LiDAR technology, the team created The Road Stripe Evaluator. This is a mechanism for early identification and detection of degraded road markings.

LiDAR Sensor Technology

The LiDAR sensor (TiM) provided to teams utilizes a rotating pulsed laser to calculate distances to its surroundings based on the time-of-flight principle. The rotating laser effectively forms a circle around the TiM, inside which users can create individual fields to monitor for the presence or absence of an object. The reliability of the sensor is improved by SICK’s patented High-Definition Distance Measurement (HDDM) technology, which samples each measurement several times and averages the results.

As the TiM$10K teams ably proved, monitoring the individual fields for objects can be a great way to solve applications that other sensing technologies cannot. This makes the TiM invaluable in a variety of industrial applications, as well as building automation, stationary, and mobile applications. In addition, the integrated Ethernet interface allows for remote monitoring, measurement, and navigation which presented a ton of creative possibilities for the TiM$10K teams.

Register for the 2020-2021 TiM$10K Challenge

SICK is now accepting entries for the TiM$10K Challenge for the 2020-2021 school year! Student teams can register online by September 14, 2020.  Student teams are encouraged to use their creativity and technical knowledge to incorporate the SICK LiDAR for any industry in any application. Advisors/professors are allowed to guide the student teams as required.

This contest was supported by PMMI Foundation’s U Skills Fund. PMMI Foundation works to grow awareness of careers in packaging and processing, providing assistance to schools and programs that develop students to excel in the industry.