I am a BIG TIME New York Rangers fan, and its been twenty years since we have been to the Cup. Last Sunday, I went to the playoff game and noticed that between the periods the Zamboni had kids for a fan ride along. It is a stadium past time for the last 60 years that between periods the Zamboni comes out to clean the ice. However, I wonder that If a Roomba can drive around my chaotic apartment cruising through a wide variety of flooring, why can’t a robot clean the ice?
Paul Van Eijil of Minnesota feels the same way, leading him to create the first robotic Zamboni, The Ice Jet. The team of Ice Jet robots promise to resurface the ice faster than the classic Zamboni machine (in about a minute or so), using GPS coordinates to control multiple machines at once.
Van Eijil says that his Ice Jet will be electrically powered and will recycle the ice collected by melting it in the machine and using the water to resurface the hockey rink. While it is not on the market yet, a prototype has been generating a lot of buzz, including a call from “Shark Tank.”
“It’s really doing the same thing (as a Zamboni),” Van Eijl said as he stood next to his prototype, “You’re just basically making it eight times as efficient.”
Van Eijl understands that in order for his creation to succeed, it would have to replace the Zamboni driver. “The biggest challenge to the Ice Jet is the tradition of the ice resurfacing machine,” he wrote in his business plan. “The machine has been a staple of the game of hockey for over 60 years.”
Even at the prototype stages, NHL teams, robotics companies, and engineers have all agreed that there’s nothing in the design that would stop it from being the future of ice resurfacing. “Looking at history here,” Van Eijl said of his prototype.
So for you Canadians who will sit out the Cup, maybe next year your kids will be able to control a fleet of robotic Ice Jets, instead of sitting on the diesel burning Zamboni.
GO RANGERS – UNITED IN BLUE!