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Purdue students build robotic frozen yogurt kiosk with unique self-serve software

August 10, 2017

FroYo XPress, a Purdue student startup, is developing an automated, self-serve frozen yogurt kiosk that will offer an all-natural, non-dairy frozen yogurt with minimal inventory and labor requirements.

Aarti Panda, a student in Purdue University’s Department of Computer Science, and Marek Davis and Henry Berkemeier, both in the School of Industrial Engineering, co-founded FroYo XPress to improve customers’ frozen yogurt experiences with a self-serve design.

The company will customize pre-existing customer service software to allow consumers to buy as much frozen yogurt as they want by pulling a lever. The kiosk will monitor the frozen yogurt volume dispensed and determine the corresponding price.

“FroYo XPress incorporates the typical self-serve frozen yogurt experience into locations where traditional brick and mortar frozen yogurt shops cannot access, such as universities,” Davis said in a press release. “With our technology, we can reach customers in high-foot traffic locations with minimal inventory and labor. Similar to gas pumps’ volume-to-price conversion, a software algorithm will translate the customers’ frozen yogurt amount into a price,” Davis said.

FroYo XPress has received $33,500 in funding: $3,500 from the Baylor New Venture Competition, $10,000 for placing second in the Burton D. Morgan Business Plan Competition and $20,000 from the Elevate Purdue Foundry Fund Black Award.

The company aims to place kiosks in multiple locations within a community and be maintained by separate retailers but they would share FroYo Xpress as its one distributor.

“According to our research, Purdue’s campus makes a great target audience with the population evenly split between the most interested consumers: students and faculty or family members,” Davis said. “We offer dairy-free products, so that the significant amount of Purdue individuals with dairy-related intolerances can still enjoy frozen yogurt.”

Davis hopes the company can partner with Purdue University to place their device in a high foot traffic area such as the Purdue Memorial Union or Stewart Market inside the Stewart Center.

“Once we find a location, we should only need two months to install a prototype,” Davis said. “Our programming is based on existing software from our manufacturer, but we will add a unique self-serve algorithm to create the interactive customer experience.”

Other frozen yogurt kiosks allow consumers to choose their preferred sizes or flavors but this device will dispense the product through its own robotic programming.

“We interviewed over 170 students, and 81 percent said they would prefer to pour their own frozen yogurt instead of receiving a predetermined size,” Davis said. “Ultimately, our ability to provide a better customer experience is going to help us succeed.”

FroYo XPress receives entrepreneurial mentorship and support from the Purdue Foundry, a commercialization accelerator in the Discovery Park’s Burton D. Morgan Center for Entrepreneurship.

“The Foundry has been so helpful,” Davis said. “We have weekly meetings with our mentors. They help us with leadership of the team, guidance over company development, and connections with networks, like investor or attorney networks.”

FroYo XPress is seeking additional personnel with experience in electrical engineering, robotics programming, or CAD designing. The team also hopes to connect with advisors experienced in point of sales software and food safety regulations.

“With this help, I hope FroYo XPress can expand across campuses and communities throughout the Midwest and eventually nationally,” Davis said. “If anyone is interested in placing a FroYo XPress kiosk, we would be happy to meet them.”