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January 30, 2024 | Tom Ballard

Student invents a ‘Roomba for snow’

A University of Minnesota undergraduate student launched "Nivoso," a self-activating snow vacuum.

This would certainly have come in handy the week before last when many communities across the Volunteer State experienced the largest snowfall in more than three decades.

What is it, you ask? It’s described by its inventor – a 19-year-old University of Minnesota student named Max Minakov – as a ‘Roomba for snow.’ In this article posted on a University website, Minakov says he was in sixth grade when he was tasked with digging out his parent’s driveway one shovel-full at a time. He knew there had to be a better way.

“I really, really hated shoveling snow,” he says. “As a kid, you’re either doing it after school or you’re getting up at 5 a.m. to do it, which I had a hard time doing. I knew there had to be something easier.”  Now, Minakov has taken that idea and run with it, launching Nivoso, a self-activating snow-clearing robot for driveways and sidewalks. The robot is completely autonomous and keeps surfaces safe and accessible 24/7 without human intervention.

Nivoso filed a utility patent, made its first minimum viable product, graduated from Beta.MN’s fall accelerator program, and won the Student Division in the 2023 MN Cup this fall. The latter earned the aspiring entrepreneur a total of $26,000 in seed money from the start-up competition. Minakov also has letters of intent from some large snow-clearing companies and is working with large senior living facilities to pilot his product. For residential use, people can sign up for beta testing beginning in the 2024-25 winter season.


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