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Kids invent robot to settle Germany's dog poo wars

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Photo: DPA
15:01 CET+01:00
A vicious spat is cleaving Germany society in two, and politicians seem helpless to do anything about it - but two nine-year-olds from Bavaria reckon they have found the answer.

Tension has been simmering under the surface for some time, but in recent months it has hit breaking point.

On the one side of the debate are the animal lovers who allow their dogs to desecrate the German streets and ignore the consequences for their fellow citizens.

On the other side are radicals who will often resort to violence to achieve their apparent aim of ridding German cities of canines.

Reports have emerged in many cities of vigilantes placing poisoned food in the paths of greedy little pups in attempt to do away with them.

In one radical action an old couple in the Rhineland pinned down a dog owner while they fed her beagle puppy poisoned meatballs. The couple then made their getaway on a pair of green ladies' bicycles.

And Einbeck, Lower Saxony, anti-dog poo campaigners gathered 250kg of excrement and hung it from a local statue in a disgusting protest.

But dog owners don't exactly have clean hands either. Apart from not picking up their dogs' little brown presents, in one infamous incident a woman was assaulted for suggesting an owner should clear up her pet's mess.

Many local politicians have talked tough on public defecation, with local councils demanding that ownérs “bag it and bin it”, and imposing fines of up to €35 on dog owners who don’t comply.

But such policies have so far from proved less than effective, with Nuremberg city alone claiming it sweeps up five tonnes of dog feces a day.

So a pair of primary school pupils in Bavarian have taken it upon themselves to defuse the poisonous atmosphere, - by inventing a robot that sniff out the feces and remove it.

Dog poo... terminated

“It always annoyed us to see so much dog poo when we came into school,” Noah Stürmer explained.

So, as a school project he and Benjamin Brädlein began to develop a robot which could recognise dog poo and would then move in to collect it and sweep it up.

The boys have now won national attention for the project, being awarded first prize in publisher Zeit’s world-saver competition.

They also reserved sharp criticism for their city authorities who tried to deal with the problem through resorting to the strong arm of the law.

“We found it pretty strange that you should pay for not picking it up - some people can’t bend down any more,” Brädlein said.

The pair started by photographing dog poo on the streets and assiduously marked new piles on a map.

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An App for mobile phones and solar panels for the robot were further ideas that the keen young inventors developed, and have now got their whole class involved in the research and development.

“The robots goes to where the poo is, collects it and then travels further to the cleaning station,” 9-year-old Moesha Müller explained.

The robot isn’t yet ready to start patrolling the streets, but he does have a name "Schweini-Robo" - mostly likely a homage to the kids' home town Schweinfurt.

Possibly it is a reference to German national football captain Bastian “Schweini” Schweinsteiger - a man who, playing from the back of midfield, is used to getting his hands dirty for the sake of the greater good.

The city of Schweinfurt at any rate seems optimistic about the boys’ ingenuity.

“If Schweini-Robo proves to be an effective helper on the city’s streets, remains to be seen, but we’re very open to the idea of putting him to the test,” a spokesperson said.

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