B y Matthew Saari

Whitehall High School graduate Zachary Max Diekel is making South Carolina news – and robots.

Smart Shopping Companion development team L-R: Dr. Yunyi Jia, Vipul Guglani, Zachary Max Diekel, Longxiang Guo

Diekel was part of a team of Clemson University grad students that built and unveiled a robotic shopping companion at the Smithsonian Institute’s Creativity and Innovation Festival, where the students stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other tech innovators.
“Going there we were a little nervous,” Diekel said. “Some of them were multi-million-dollar projects and we built ours for about $350.”
The Smithsonian unveil was followed by a presentation in Greenville, South Carolina and since then several media outlets have picked up the story, including Fox News.
The robot, which some are heralding as a real-life R2-D2, consists of a crate on a chassis with wheels and can track and follow a shopper throughout a store utilizing three ultrasonic sensors that function similarly to bats’ echolocation, pinging soundwaves off objects to measure distances.
“The controller takes these three distances and decides where the person is,” Diekel said.

This is only a preview of the story published in the Whitehall Times. To read the full story, pick up a print copy of this week’s paper at the newsstand or read it online here.

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