After the installation of our first floating habitat in June 2017, we found that one specific issue continued to plague the otherwise beautiful area...trash.

First, we tried cleaning it up by hand. Every other day someone would kayak out to the habitat to remove garbage, but that was not enough. Trash appeared at random times and in large quantities. Sometimes we would remove every piece of trash in the morning and by the afternoon more had reappeared.

So, we created at Trash Task Force and went to the drawing board – this project could have never gotten to the level of sophistication that it is at today without the hard work of our task force. Our team prototyped a remote-controlled boat that was capable of herding trash to a safe location where it could then be removed. This proved not only effective...but very entertaining.

We realized that we could possibly make this an interactive experience by linking the “Trashbot” to our website and letting anyone, anywhere, help clean up the trash in the Chicago River.


We've raised almost $16,000 to finance v.2. of the bot, which will include a modified design to withstand all seasons, a home base trash station, and a high-power Wifi station. As we continue to raise funds, the $20,000 mark gives us the ability to have more than one robot in the river, along with greater flexibility with the accessories we attach to the bot.

Once we are able to prototype this bot, we will be able to assess how we can expand this idea to other rivers. All our designs and learnings will be Open Source. We are actively seeking people to change, modify and enhance our project, so please reach out at if interested. Our rivers and waterways are in bad shape and we need all the help we can get to create healthier, wildlife-focused waterways.


We are certainly aware that nothing like this Trash Robot has been done before, so unexpected risks and challenges will undoubtedly present themselves. 

Our top concern is vandalism; however, due to the nature of the device, it will have GPS tracking, which can mitigate this risk. There are also cameras in the area tracking wildlife, which will ideally discourage would-be vandals. And lastly, there will be a tether attached to the bot to prevent the device from running/floating/getting dragged away. 

Our second concern is software security. We take this very seriously and will utilize outside auditors to verify that our implementation is secure. There is a minimum amount of damage a malicious actor could perform. Mostly, we worry they could intentionally and repeatedly crash the device. As stated above, there will be a safety tether, as well as a virtual GPS "cage" to limit the navigable area that the bot can travel around our installation.

Interested in helping with the Trashbot or just want to take it for a spin and clean up the Chicago River?

Email to get involved.

Check out our Kickstarter video above to learn more about the project or visit our In The News page to follow the latest coverage on the project.