Robotic creations pupils’ solution for buildings’ gull problems

Over the past five years, Oamaru building owners have exhausted several different options in an attempt to prevent red-billed gulls nesting in the North Otago town’s central business district.

But they have not tried robotic cats, sharks or monster trucks with lasers and spikes — and a class of St Joseph’s School pupils believe their creations could be the answer to the buildings’ owners’ problems.

Last year, St Joseph’s School put its hand up to be involved in a Royal Albatross Centre citizen science project to get a better understanding of where different species of gulls were spending time, and why, with the aim of reducing negative interactions between humans and gulls.

Project lead Sally Carson visited the Oamaru school to talk to the children about gull populations in the region, including the issues red-billed gulls had been causing in the North Otago town, and set them up to observe and count the number of gulls at their own school.

St Joseph’s School pupils show off their robotic creations to prevent red-billed gulls from...
St Joseph’s School pupils show off their robotic creations to prevent red-billed gulls from nesting on Oamaru buildings. PHOTO: REBECCA RYAN

Teacher Leigh Thomas said it had been a "quite fascinating" exercise for the pupils, who could engage in citizen science without leaving the school yard.


The class was concurrently learning about coding and robotics — and one of the pupils suggested they put their new skills into practice, and come up with robot designs to scare the gulls off rooftops.

Working in groups, they designed prototypes, using Hummingbird Robotics Kits, and came up with "amazing" creations, Mrs Thomas said.

"Some really good ideas, and you know, the whole class was new to coding last year — so this was brand new for them."

Cameron Astin and Tendayi Tondozai (both 10) designed "The Roofinator", a monster truck robot, with spikes and lasers, that would move around rooftops to scare gulls away.

"If it senses that it’s on the edge of the roof, it would turn around," Cameron said.

"Meowsicles", a robotic cat on wheels with laser eyes, was the brainchild of James Laming, Liam Lindsay, Jac Bradley (all 10), and Lincoln Mandiwona (11).

They decided to build a robotic cat, knowing birds were scared of cats, and brainstormed to settle on a design, James said.

It took about three days to construct it, and the coding to make the arms and wheels move and the head spin around took up most of their time.

They were confident what they came up with would be an effective deterrent.

Joaquin Perez, Alex Perniskie and Xiao Hui (all 11) designed a robotic shark, named Jeff, that opened and shut its jaws and moved its tail, to scare the gulls away.

"[The jaws would] open with a sensor and it would scare it away — and we tried to get the tail moving,"Alex said.




Add a Comment

Our journalists are your neighbours

We are the South's eyes and ears in crucial council meetings, at court hearings, on the sidelines of sporting events and on the frontline of breaking news.

As our region faces uncharted waters in the wake of a global pandemic, Otago Daily Times continues to bring you local stories that matter.

We employ local journalists and photographers to tell your stories, as other outlets cut local coverage in favour of stories told out of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

You can help us continue to bring you local news you can trust by becoming a supporter.

Become a Supporter