Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

October 1, 2012

Goshen father and son engineer a pumpkin-carving robot

GOSHEN — Ever wish you could enjoy a beautifully carved pumpkin without all the mess and manual labor? If local inventors Brian and Alex VanDiepenbos have their way, you may just get that wish.

The VanDiepenbos father-son duo (Brian being the father, Alex the son) have been building, fixing and modifying all manor of inventions for as long as the two can remember, but it’s their newest invention, the “PunkinBoT,” that is really starting to make waves in the local invention world.

“Over the past few months my family and I have designed and built a computer controlled pumpkin-carving robot,” said Alex, a Fairfield High School graduate who currently works in Quality Control out of Mishawaka. “We come up with the artwork on the computer, and we send it to another program that generates the code to go to the computer controller that then goes to the motors which control the pumpkin-carving process.”

So what does that mean in layman’s terms? Essentially, the “face” of the pumpkin is created digitally on a computer. That digital image is then sent to another computer that controls a robotic arm holding a cutting tool that then carves that digital image into the pumpkin. The entire process takes only about five minutes, though the two are still working on getting the setup time down and making the machine more user friendly.

As for the images the system can create, Alex said it’s really only limited by the user’s imagination.

“Really whatever you can think of you can put on their, but you have to adapt each image so it can actually be cut and look decent and have clean lines,” Alex said. “The method that we’re using for our cut is actually not all the way through, it’s only part of the way through. The reason why you do that is because when you leave the surface flesh peeled back but the inner layer intact, the light actually glows brighter because it has nowhere to disperse to.”

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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