TE+ND stands for Terrestrial Exploration + Nurture Designed, and the rovers "explore migratory ecology in an era of climate change." Think of a tiny garden riding on the back of a walking robot, which seeks you as a "participant" out for help in finding light and water to care for the plants. The concept is intriguing. Johnston writes:
The rovers are robotic fostering environments that care for their own garden of native plants by interacting with participants and actively seeking out light and water. Each rover is two feet wide by three feet tall and has a hydroponic growing station on top of a mechanically walking base. The hydroponic growing station is made of ceramic material and has been designed to retain the right amount of moisture for root survival. The goal of the project is to illustrate the plight of California’s native habitats, to disperse native plants in a new way, to encourage the general public to participate in conservation and to think about what is ‘native.’
You not only gain an understanding of the needs of native plants when you see the rovers wandering about caring for the mini garden, but also an appreciation for the little gardeners. Here is a video of the Rover in motion.
MAKE interviewed Johnston, where she states, "Because the robots navigate using obstacle-avoidance technology, bystanders can “herd” them by standing in their way to cause them to move in a particular direction, and thereby encourage them to travel toward resources beyond the range of the robots’ sensors. There will also be a Quick Response code on a plaque on the rover that will direct community members to more information about the project, topic discussions on native ecology, and troubleshooting interactions with the rovers."
I am definitely excited to see the TE+ND Rovers at Maker Faire this year, and would love to see them roaming around my city one day!