Anyone who has lived through a (normal) Minnesota or Wisconsin winter has undoubtedly had some kind of thought about how snow removal could be made easier.

Whether heated surfaces or robots, dreams of easier or more "hands-off" ways to keep sidewalks, decks, and driveways clear of snow when it's falling has been a dream of many around the region for years.

There have been attempts over the years to develop some concepts, but none of them seem to have caught on. A new invention from a University of Minnesota student might change that.

Making a snow removal dream a reality

Max Minakov on YouTube
Max Minakov on YouTube

Max Minakov, a sophomore at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management has been devising a solution for many years. In an interview he did with WCCO TV, he explained that he's been spending brain power on the idea of automated snow removal since he was in 6th grade.

READ MORE: What is Minnesota's snowiest month? Believe it or not, it isn't March!

He explains "I hated having to wake up an hour early before I already had to wake up for school, just to go outside and shovel". That sounds familiar, doesn't it? I feel like most people who live in Minnesota or Wisconsin have felt that same frustration.

In what started as a 6th grade science fair project, Max has continued refining this dream of a machine to automatically remove snow. This device, which works on a similar concept as a Roomba vacuum, is now becoming a reality.

Minakov's invention actually won the 2023 Minnesota Cup, winning $26,000 in prize money in the entrepreneurial competition among University of Minnesota students.

Meet the Nivoso snow removal robot

Max Minakov on YouTube
Max Minakov on YouTube

Nivoso, which is Latin for "snowy", is designed to head out when a certain amount of snow is detected, clearing your driveway or sidewalk. The tracked device with a sweeper on the front would not do one final snow removal when the snow is done falling.

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The idea is that the device would keep doing regular clearings of snow, keeping your surfaces clear and avoiding challenges a device this small might meet if it were to try to move a foot of snow all at once.

The company website says these autonomous devices have "an array of sensors and complex software algorithms, the robot is capable of clearing snow without human intervention".

The Nivoso is "self-activating:", detecting when a pre-set amount of snow has fallen, indicating it's time to start snow removal. The example amount used in the promotional video below suggests an example of when an inch of snow is detected, the device will begin its work.

Getting a Nivoso

If you're hoping to get one of these devices, you'll have to wait a little bit. The company opened entries for an open beta, where users could put one of these devices to work for free on a trial basis to work out any quirks before putting them out to the open market.

This public beta, according to the Nivoso website, is currently full. Their website suggests they hope to do a season of beta testing before going into full production.

There are currently no price points for the device or timeline for when they will go for sale. They do have a sign-up area on their website to be able to get information when they become available.

That said, I can imagine there are a lot of homeowners and businesses that would love to have one (or a few) of these devices to help keep their surfaces cleared during the winter!

Snowiest Cities & Towns In Minnesota

What Minnesota cities get the most snow each winter? Here are the 20 snowiest Minnesota towns according to data from NOAA spanning from 1991-2020.

Gallery Credit: Nick Cooper

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