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Small Robot Scuttling Across Old Main Lawn Is An Electric Mower

The Husqvarna electric lawnmower that’s been puttering across Old Main Lawn for several weeks, slowly perusing the still-scarred patches of grass that somehow endured the foot traffic of College GameDay, has inspired a variety of reactions from passers-by. 

One pedestrian approached the Automower 450X and waved his arms and legs in front of it in an attempt to make it turn like a Roomba vacuum. Students posted videos of the machine on their Snapchat stories and tweeted at Penn State in an attempt to understand why a WALL-E derivative had invaded the heart of campus.  

Husqvarna is a Swedish manufacturing company with an extensive history that produces a wide range of outdoor products, ranging from sod cutters to chainsaws to low-maintenance robotic lawnmowers.

The Automower 450X is the most expensive and capable member of the final category, according to the company’s website. The fully-automatic 450X can keep a 1.25 acre lawn in catalog condition, and costs about $3,500.

It’s limited by an electronic wire system, which marks the boundaries of the lawn, returns on its own to a charging station when its battery runs low, and can be controlled through an accompanying app that allows users to dictate when it runs. 

The Automower returns to its charging station when its battery runs low. 

The unit patrolling Old Main Lawn is currently undergoing a trial period on campus to see if it proves a useful and feasible addition to Penn State’s Office of the Physical Plant’s (OPP) equipment arsenal.

“This is a demo. It is an electric mower, but is a novelty for us right now,” OPP Equipment Coordinator Ryan McCaughey said. “The demo is an opportunity to judge its ability for use on campus around students, faculty, staff, and visitors.”

The Automower is part of a larger OPP effort to transition to more sustainable equipment.

“OPP Landscape is in the process of switching over to electric landscape equipment options to reduce CO2 emissions and noise on campus,” McCaughey said.

OPP plans to test the Automower until the spring. It may also introduce the machine to the university’s Innovation Park complex to see how it performs in a more complicated setting. 

Old Main Lawn is obviously a vast patch of grass, so the university may invest in more than one unit to keep it trim throughout the year. 

“This area of lawn is a test for both us and Husqvarna because of its size,” McCaughey said. “A lawn that size may require more than one unit, possibly as many as three.”

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About the Author

Jim Davidson

Jim is a junior English and history major and the features editor for Onward State. He, like most of the Penn State undergraduate population, is from 'just outside Philadelphia,' and grew up in Spring City, Pennsylvania. He covers a variety of Penn State topics, but spends nine months of every year waiting for the start of soccer season. You can reach him via email at [email protected] or follow him on twitter @messijim.

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