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Final Report

March 2013


By Ian and Matthew

1 Abstract – The Automated Cereal Dispenser

In today’s society, the development of technology provides humans with the opportunity to accomplish various daily tasks without the need for human interaction. Many of these time consuming tasks are often inefficiently performed however, with the use of automation, these simple tasks could be completed efficiently and allow us to complete more complicated projects.

The purpose of our project is to construct a machine that would allow for users to save time during their daily breakfast routines.

This machine was hypothesized to save over one week’s worth of time during the entire life of the machine’s user if used daily.

Using a LEGO designing software, a model of our innovation was produced. The program allowed us to track the materials and steps needed in order to physically assemble the prototype. During the construction phases, separate pieces of the machine were assembled and tested to ensure they performed their required functions. Upon completion, the portions were connected together to form one cohesive appliance.

In order to collect data to calculate how much time is saved by using the machine, a group of 10 participants (5 females, 5 males) with varied ages, occupations, and daily routines was selected to complete a week long survey on daily breakfast habits. The survey allowed us to determine the total time used to make a breakfast meal on average, and allowed us to calculate the amount of time saved for the average Canadian with an 80.8 year life expectancy.

After building and testing our innovation, the machine dispensed breakfast cereal into a small bowl, transported it a small distance, added milk, and added a spoon without any human interaction. As a result, we discovered that over 100 days’ worth of time can be saved if the machine is used every day for the 80.8 years.

Table of Contents

1Abstract – The Automated Cereal Dispenser


3Question & Project Statement



6Background Information


7.1Step #1: Research and selection of breakfast food to automate

7.2Step #2: Build the automated machine

7.3Materials List

8Experiment & Test Summaries

9Collected Data Summary

9.1Step #1: Human Breakfast Survey

9.1.1Participant Data

9.1.2Participant Ages

9.1.3Participant Breakfast Routines

9.1.4Participant Breakfast Location

9.1.5Participant Breakfast Automation

9.1.6Participant Cereal Consumption Habits

9.1.7Participant Potential ACD adoption

9.2Step #2: Automated Machine - Performance


9.3.1Daily Time Savings

9.3.2Lifetime Time Savings #1 #2 #3


10.1Breakfast Automation Saves Time

10.2Predicted Time Saved: One Week Per Lifetime

10.3A Large Potential Market Exists

10.4There Is A High Acceptance Rate In The Potential Market

10.5The Innovation Is Technically Viable

10.6Comparison With Similar Devices


11Possible applications of the innovation

11.1Benefits for people with diminished manual dexterity

11.2Hospital benefits

11.3Benefits for people with old age

11.4Other applications

11.5Time savings

12Further Improvements

12.1Step #1: The Human Breakfast Survey

12.2Step #2: Automated Machine

12.2.1Prototype model improvements

12.2.2Production model improvements



Appendix I…

2 Introduction

Throughout the world of science, researchers study the behaviours and structures of various aspects experienced in the world. Scientists use hypotheses, observations, and tests/experiments/studies to develop and prove theories that describe the results of global activities.

In high school, students learn about scientific concepts such as electricity (physics), optics (physics), chemical reactions (chemistry), climate change (ecology), the universe (astronomy), sustainable ecosystems (biology), and living things’ systems (biology). These concepts are very important and can be connected to the events that occur in our lives on a daily basis.

The Bay Area Science and Engineering Fair allows young scientists to apply the knowledge and scientific skills gained in the classroom to real life ideas. Young scientists are given the opportunity to showcase their abilities and talents to others in the scientific community and to learn from one another.

In this particular project, we decided to make a device in order to solve a problem (innovation).

This project consists of building a prototype and conducting research and surveys (primary source evidence) to support the machine’s impact.

Our goal is to design a device that can make breakfast without any human interaction.

With the continuous developments of technology and engineering in our lives, we have decided to take a more modern approach to make this simple, common task more efficient and less time consuming.

Throughout this report, all of the processes, ideas, summaries, and research related to our project have been collated to demonstrate the scientific process of producing our Automatic Cereal Dispenser or ACD for short.

3 Question & Project Statement

“In what way could the use of automation improve the performance of breakfast?”

Throughout the typical human life, much of our time is devoted to accomplish simple daily tasks.

With the development of technology and computing science in today’s society, many of these tasks could be accomplished through automation and minimal human interaction.

As a result, a user could save significant time that could be dedicated to study a particular subject area.

Thus, the goal of this project is to apply our knowledge of automation to improve the daily breakfast routine (make it less time consuming).

4 Purpose

The purpose of this innovation is to demonstrate how the use of engineering and computing science techniques can be applied to the production of a mechanism that can make life activities more efficient and less time consuming. For this particular project, our goal is to use our scientific knowledge to make a simple machine that can make breakfast without the need for any human interaction.

5 Hypothesis

The researchers hypothesized that the use of technology and engineering will make the production of breakfast a process that will require minimal human interaction, and save many hours of time in the life of the user.

We predict that about one week’s worth of time will be saved by the user if he/she lives for 80.8 years (Canadian life expectancy) if the machine is used daily.

In addition, it is believed that a large potential market of customers exists and that such customers will be willing to adopt the new technology to a high degree.

We also hypothesized that such technology and engineering skills can be transformed into a viable machine.

Hence, the expected outcome of this project is an appliance capable of dispensing a selected cereal into a small bowl, transporting the bowl a small distance, adding milk to the cereal, and place a spoon into the bowl.

In summary, our hypothesis are:

  1. Breakfast Automation saves time
  2. Predicted Time Saved: one week per life expectancy (80.8 years)
  3. A large potential market with high acceptance exists
  4. The innovation is technically viable

6 Background Information

Throughout our busy lives as human beings, there are many simple tasks that must be completed on a daily basis to prepare for the upcoming series of events that we may encounter. Whether the task is brushing our teeth, making meals, cleaning our houses, sleeping, or getting ready for work/school, these activities continually use up a little of our precious time from every day that we live. Over the long time period that humans live, these small tasks continue to add up and much of our lives is spent completing them.

According to Stats Canada’s 2011 national census, the average life expectancy of a Canadian is about 80.8 years. To put this into perspective, the aforementioned tasks might amount to about one quarter of the 24 hours in a day. In other words, almost one quarter of our life is devoted to working on simple daily tasks.

Although these small tasks are very important, if some of this time could be directed to scientific research or study on a particular subject, the world could improve dramatically through the production of new ideas.

In our lives today, technology continues to develop and is the basis of our daily activities. Technology use is demonstrated through the phones, appliances, televisions, automobiles, and most items that we constantly use throughout society. Technological improvements have been showcased over the last century, and have made a large impact on the whole planet. For example, mechanical twist-up alarm clocks were used many decades ago while digital radio clocks have been produced in recent years. Also, automated vacuums are starting to become more prominent. If some of our technological or engineering knowledge could be directed to finishing one of our small daily activities, our time spent working and studying could be lengthened dramatically.

To begin our study, we sifted through the normal daily routines of a human and found specific activities that are common between most people. We inferred that since nearly every human wakes up and eats breakfast before school or work, making breakfast could be a task that takes up a little time from our daily lives on a consistent basis.

The production of breakfast on a daily basis occurs with a lot of human interaction as bowls, cereal, and utensils are collected. In addition, time can be spent waiting for toast, or boiled water needed for oatmeal.

According to recent studies by Egg Farmers Ontario, breakfast is one of the most important meals of the day as it is critical to concentration levels, eyesight, and decision making. In fact, only 250 millilitres of milk and 30 grams of breakfast cereal use up one dairy serving and one grains serving suggested by the Canadian food guide (providing a strong foundation for a successful day).

As we thought more about this inefficient, time consuming activity, we realized that it also has a great effect on the rest of our daily productivity. As we considered various alternatives, we realized that the implementation of technology to make a simple machine could be the most effective. This idea would allow for minimal human interaction during the breakfast process, allowing for more time to be saved on a daily basis. However, the use of machinery could also ensure that the quality of this important meal is never compromised due to time constraints as humans could perform other tasks at the same time. Therefore, we began developing our ideas on the quest to using automation for improving the performance of breakfast.

7 Procedure

7.1 Step #1: Research and selection of breakfast food to automate

The Human Breakfast Survey

  1. Using Microsoft Word, create a research Letter of Information and an Experiment Consent Form for each participant.
  2. Using Microsoft Word, create a survey sheet for each participant that allows for the identification of age group, gender, job type, and breakfast habits. A table should also be formed to allow for participants to identify their wake up time, time required to make breakfast, and breakfast components for seven consecutive days.
  3. Select a sample size of 10 participants (5 female and 5 male) with different age groups and job titles (student, teacher, workplace, or post secondary education) to allow for an overall view of possible results.
  4. Conduct a meeting to answer any questions from participants, discuss research benefits and requirements, and fill out all consent forms.
  5. Allow the participants to perform their daily breakfast routines for seven consecutive days (one complete week).
  6. Conduct another conference to discuss the success of the study, and to collect the survey sheets and questionnaires from the participants.
  7. Using Microsoft Excel, record the data in chart and graph form. Identify the most common age groups, genders, and job titles. Calculate the average wake up time, time required to make breakfast, and most common breakfast routine questionnaire responses.
  8. Using the trends and averages of the data, calculate the average time saved daily when using the machine when compared to regular routines. Use the most recent Canadian census data to find the average life expectancy to determine the amount of time the machine will save during an average Canadian life.

7.2 Step #2: Build the automated machine

For exact step-by-step instructions please consult the ACD Technical Manual due to extensive length of information required for the assembly procedure.
The physical construction of the innovation occurred in two stages. During the first stage all sub-systems were developed and tested separately. During the second stage, sub-systems were integrated and the final complete system was tested.

7.3 Materials List

LEGO Materials

  • A grand total of 1527 LEGO pieces were used. Detailed list can be found in the ACD Technical Manual.


  • 1 Oster Professional Products Blade Lube 188mL bottle
  • 1 USB Fridge (8.5cm x 18.5cm x 7.5cm)
  • 1 Quaker Corn Bran Squares Box (29.5cm x 21cm x 7.2cm)
  • 500 grams Selection Toasted O’s Cereal
  • 1 USB Charger ONN400D
  • 1 Hewlett Packer 82241A AC Adaptor (9V AC)
  • 1 Condor Power Supply (9V AC)
  • 150 cm Pneumatic Tubing (0.4 cm diameter)
  • 1 312 mL Milk Container
  • 1 Ceramic Bowl
  • Teflon and Scotch Tape
  • 1 Metal Spoon
  • 1 2ml syringe with needle

Computer Programs

  • 1 Dell computer, 1 HP LaserJet Printer
  • LEGO Digital Designer v4.2 Software
  • LDView v4.1 Software
  • LEGO Mindstorms Robotics Invention System 2.0 Software
  • MLCad v3.3 Software
  • Foxit PhantomPDF Printer Software
  • Microsoft Word (Word Processer)
  • Microsoft Excel (Spreadsheet)

Logbook/Written Report/Presentation Board Materials

  • 10 HB Standard Pencils
  • 3 Erasers
  • 2 Blue and Red Pens
  • 1 Texas Instruments TI-30XA Scientific Calculator
  • 1 Ruler (50 cm)
  • 1 Measuring Tape (115 cm)
  • Blank and lined paper (27.5 cm x 21.5 cm)
  • 1 Binder (30 cm x 23 cm)
  • 1 CSI Project Display Board (122.5 x 91.5 cm)

Human Survey Subjects

  • 5 Male and 5 Female participants

8 Experiment & Test Summaries

Throughout the production stage of the Automatic Cereal Dispenser, the researchers constructed the innovation in six separate sub-systems. They are:

  1. Primary Structure (Lego): Cereal dispensing and weighing; cereal transport within the system and air pressure generation.
  2. Electric and Electronic Components (Lego): Programmable Controllers, Sensors and Motors
  3. Liquid Delivery: Fridge Assembly, Temperature Monitoring and Piping
  4. Software: Control Programs
  5. Calibration Procedures: Weight, Liquid and Temperature
  6. Table Transport: Cereal Bowl transport on table (remote controlled)

Each sub-system is composed of modules. Detailed information is available in the ACD Technical Manual.

At the beginning, the first sub-system was designed digitally using CAD software. Each module of this sub-system was then built with LEGO. Upon completion of each individual module, it was tested. Once all modules were completed, integration assembly took place, followed by testing and modifications (when required).

As the first sub-system was completed, the other sub-systems were built. Final integration, testing and modification of the full system took place.

A total of four different designs were produced, tested, observed, and modified throughout the duration of the project:

  • Design A : Digital Prototype
  • Design B: Simple Individual Modules Built/Altered
  • Design C: Simple Individual Modules Incorporated
  • Design D: Complex Individual Modules Built/Incorporated

Specific details can be found in the ACD Notebook.

The following table lists key ACD independent and dependent variables:

Independent Variables: / Dependent Variables:
Time vibrating cereal box / Amount of cereal in bowl
Time pouring cereal into bowl / Amount of cereal in bowl
Time transporting bowl along conveyor belt / Positioning of cereal bowl
Time pump is working (milk dispenser) / Amount of milk added to bowl
Whether RCX 1 (in charge of cereal dispensing) completes sequence / Whether RCX 2 (in charge of milk dispenser) starts
Amount of cereal in bowl (weight) / Light reading (weight sensor)
Time polarity switch controlling pump is on / Time pump is functioning

These variables should be considered if another cereal dispenser is developed in the future.

9 Collected Data Summary

9.1 Step #1: Human Breakfast Survey

The breakfast habits and routines of the subject group were tracked for seven consecutive days (one week). At the conclusion of the week, a questionnaire was also completed by each participant to collect responses regarding other related breakfast information.

The experiment/survey was conducted between the dates: Sunday February 10th, 2013 and Saturday February 23rd, 2013.

Specific details can be found in the ACD Notebook.

9.1.1 Participant Data

Category: (total, gender, job title) / Collected Information:
Sample Size / 10 (all currently living in Ontario, Canada)
Number of male participants / 5
Number of female participants / 5
Number of student participants / 3
Number of teacher participants / 1
Number of post secondary student participants (university/college) / 1
Number of full-time working participants (not including teachers or professors) / 4
Number of retired/senior participants / 1

Of the 10 participants, 50% were men and 50% were female (equal representation by gender). In addition, 50% of the participants were involved in an education based lifestyle (teaching, post secondary studies, and students) while 50% were either full time workers or retired. Therefore as a diverse group of participants have participated in the survey, the average of the data collected will demonstrate an accurate representation of the consistent breakfast habits performed by the typical Canadian.

9.1.2 Participant Ages

The following graph summarizes survey information

9.1.3 Participant Breakfast Routines

Using the data collected, it was simple to determine that each individual had a consistent routine performed throughout the week. As a large group was surveyed, the final results gave the researchers a more accurate representation. For the data collected, the average daily wake up time throughout the week was 7:25 am. The data also showed that on weekends, the wake up time was much later than during the week. The time required to make breakfast was fairly consistent for each day of the week, with the overall average time at 8 minutes.