GPRC’s Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge is well underway for the seven students who are competing this year.
In this GPRIN-sponsored challenge, teams of students work collaboratively with a business in the community to tackle a professional project or identify solutions to a challenge faced by the business.
The first team is working with the Growing the North business conference to develop a promotional video; the second is working with GPRC’s National Bee Diagnostic Centre to improve the design of a piece of diagnostic equipment.
Introducing Team #2: GPRC National Bee Diagnostic Centre – Shaker Tube
When first-year engineering students Teigan Scott, Zachary Fournier and Caitlin Peebles received their task for the Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge, they were excited by the possibilities.
GPRC National Bee Diagnostic Centre (NBDC) asked the students to redesign the tubes in their laboratory benchtop shaker, a piece of equipment used to remove varroa mites (a common honeybee pest) from bees. Bee samples are submerged in ethanol and shaken in shaker tubes to separate the mites from their hosts. Researchers can then evaluate the severity of the infestation by conducting a varroa count. Students were tasked with coming up with some ideas for improving the design of the shaker tube in a way that was cost- and time-effective.
Solving NBDC’s design problem required a solid foundation of knowledge about the shaker mechanism and about the solutions other laboratories had implemented. “I think for me the coolest part has been doing the research and seeing how it’s already being done,” said Peebles. “I like to look at things and see why they do what they do.”
Scott, Fournier and Peebles were surprised by what they found. Even many top-notch research labs did not seem to have sophisticated solutions to the problem the students were facing. The team discovered that many laboratories used simple, homemade contraptions to remove mites, often constructed from disposable coffee cups or peanut butter jars. “One of the tools other researchers have used was literally just a plastic cup with holes poked through the bottom,” said Fournier. “I saw that and thought, ‘I can do better!’”
The team’s design had to be leak- and rust-proof and made from materials that would not react with ethanol. Cost and convenience were key factors in the design process.
After much research and a lengthy trial-and-error process, the team has come up with four potential designs for improvement of the shaker tube. They are now in the midst of creating prototypes using GPRC’s 3D printer.
With competition day approaching fast and a top prize of $3,000 on the line, Team #2 hopes judges will agree their designs are “the bees’ knees”!
Teams will have the opportunity to present their challenge solutions on January 22, when a Challenge winner will be announced.