The Automated Australian Chook Gate
Rodney Shannon of Rodney Downs Pastoral Company tasked a team of four freshman engineering students with designing a device that would automatically open and close the gate of his chicken coop. He wanted his chickens (a.k.a. chooks in Australia) to be able to go outside early and also be safe from predatory foxes when they roost a night, regardless of his availability or any difficulties in reaching the coop. To be thorough and practice what we learned in our engineering design class, we worked through the design process in three steps. First, we explored the design space by defining and creating metrics for the design's functions, objectives, and constraints. We split the design into three functionally independent subsystems, which we then optimized and synthesized. The resultant design involves a leadscrew that determines the position of a sliding door with the use of a motor, all of which are controlled by a microcontroller and various sensing devices attached to it.