Mechanical engineering graduates from Camosun College demonstrated their final research projects, with some gizmos even confounding accepted conventional wisdom.
The 2019 Mechanical Engineering Technology Showcase saw around 50 students show off their designs Friday at the college’s Centre for Trades, Education and Innovation.
The students applied their learning to 12 different projects focused on solving real-world problems. The projects were sponsored by industry with some already earmarked for further development.
As well as completing their regular class and course work, the students spent up to 2,400 hours on each project, often putting in 80 hours a week developing responses to the challenges.
Some included projects that confounded conventional wisdom. For instance, it is widely accepted that mash once finished distilling spirits, such as gin, needs to go to landfill or needs a lot of dilution to be composted effectively. However, students secured sponsorship from industry, researched the problem and built a machine that dries and then converts brewers’ spent grain into combustible biomass pellets.
“Innovative” was perhaps the watchword of the day, as proud family members milled around industry figures and members of the public, perusing the many stands. Lots of questions were asked of the clever designs as, in addition to mechanical design, the students also built the electrical and electronic controls, as well as programming all software.
Creative solutions to problems were widely in evidence, with a specialized ball bearing giving the split-second edge to a world-class wheelchair athlete, an ice-skate sharpening machine that allows wearers to sharpen skates while standing in them and a machine that turns colourful bees wax strips into a tactile replacement for cling-film.
“This capstone project showcase gives students an opportunity to demonstrate what they are able to do and for the public to see what they’re capable of doing after two to three years of study,” says Len Mar, one of seven mentoring instructors from Camosun College’s Mechanical Engineering Technology program.
The projects helped students learn about collaborating with outside agencies. An example is the Lancaster Project, sponsored by the B.C. Aviation Museum in Sidney. Two groups of students worked on processes to speed-up the complex rebuilding of a WW2 bomber.
“We’ve been able to draw on the local expertise of Victoria Air Maintenance and Viking Air Ltd,” says Mar. “We leaned extensively on the Camosun Innovation Technology Access Centre and their 3D scanning technology and specialized software to re-create damaged aircraft parts when the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre in England couldn’t provide original part drawings.”
Supporting the community and making products that can help people in a significant way were two themes strongly voiced during the showcase.
A carseat back support and a hydroponic growing tray, with a solar panel that tracks the sun’s movements, were two products that garnered industry interest. Other projects included a surfboard hydrofoil, a renewable energy trailer, demonstrated with virtual reality, a farm biogas digester and a carbon fibre racecar.