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The Inspection Robot for Electrical Manholes: Senior Design Team Strives to Find Safer Worker Solution

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Ritchie School Communications Team

News  •

On May 15 the Ritchie School hosted the annual Senior Design Symposium virtually. All the senior design teams participated and worked hard to ensure that the community did not miss any of the information they would receive in an in-person event.

The senior design team Inspection Robot for Electrical Manholes was sponsored by Commonwealth Edison.

This team consisted of Augie Johnson (BS CpE) - Project Lead; Shauna Dolph (BS EE) - Financial Manager; Suzie Dong (BS EE) - Lead Electrical Engineer; Emmett White (BS ME) - Lead Mechanical Engineer; Abdullah Alabduljader (BS ME) - Mechanical Engineer; Kyle Cummins (BS ME) - Mechanical Engineer. (Left to right)

The Inspection Robot for Electrical Manholes Team

Commonwealth Edison services the city of Chicago, which is a subsidiary of Exelon Corporation. The mission of Exelon is “to be the leading diversified energy company – by providing reliable, clean, affordable and innovative energy products.” Commonwealth Edison embodies this belief and works on improving and sustaining its electrical system which includes a large intricate underground power system.

Inspection Robot for Electrical Manholes Design

Worker safety issues arise when inspecting and repairing electrical manholes, including the risk from electric shock, burns, exposure to hazardous gases, and physical dangers from items below the water level of flooded manholes. Both during routine inspections and emergency repairs, electrical workers must wait for flooded manholes to drain or be pumped out before assessing the dangers within the hole and beginning repairs to restore power to a community after a blackout.  This project aimed to design and build a remote controlled robotic system that can begin preliminary inspections of electrical manholes while water is still draining from the manhole, thus improving worker safety and response time. Key components and functions of the designed robot include: a thermal camera to identify faults; cameras to provide visual feed and data; a multimeter to identify standing voltage; and carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide sensors to measure the gases present in the manhole.

Though this team worked hard, they were unable to build a physical prototype due to manufacturing issues related to the coronavirus pandemic. The team did create a comprehensive Solidworks design chosen peripherals show great promise for improving worker safety should it be manufactured at a later date. Any continuation of this project should aim to improve worker safety and response time to help communities affected by power outages and to improve the quality of life in those communities.

The Inspection Robot for Electrical Manholes Team Pitch Video