Saturday, November 1, 2014

Camosun College Mechanical Engineering showcase brings new inventions, beer to campus

September 3, 2014 by Greg Pratt, managing editor

A new invention that could change the face of the craft-brewing scene is just one of the projects on display at the upcoming Camosun Mechanical Engineering showcase.

Second-year Mechanical Engineering technology student David Gilmour has no shortage of enthusiasm for his team’s project, which is one of many student inventions being showcased at the upcoming event.

What Gilmour refers to as an “automated carbonated beverage-dispensing device” is, upon further investigation, a beer-vending machine.

A team of Camosun students are designing a beer vending machine (photo provided).

“It was quite daunting,” admits Gilmour about the machine, which will be used to refill Phillips brewery growlers. “There was a lot of work involved. But we got a good group of guys together for my team and we did a lot of research to make sure everything was going to work at the beginning, so it made it nice and smooth for us once we got into the actual building of the machine.”

The showcase, which is happening on Friday September 19 from 10 am to 2 pm at the basketball court on Interurban’s campus, provides students a chance to show their peers what they’ve been working on. It also serves as a chance for them to think back on their program and what they’ve learned. Gilmour says that the hands-on experience of getting the projects ready for the showcase has been one of the most important parts of his program.

“Almost as much as I’ve learned theoretically through the rest of the program I’ve learned practically doing this,” he says. “It really applies a lot to what we’re actually doing as technologists and engineers. It’s good to sit and learn about the theory as the backbone, but to actually put it to use solidifies a lot of the ideas we’ve learned.”

Second-year Mechanical Engineering technology student Leslie Culbard agrees, saying “the amount that you learn in three months is a lot greater than what you learn in classes over the two years.”

Culbard and her team have created a dough dispenser that extracts gluten-free dough for Origin Bakery. She says it’s been difficult but the rewards are obvious to her when she’s in job interviews.

“I’ve been to a couple interviews,” she says, “and the first thing they say to me is, ‘Oh, you’re going to Camosun? What project are you working on?’”

Mechanical Engineering Technology faculty advisor Jeffrey Stephen says that the momentum of the showcase and the students’ talents are becoming “much more well known” in the community.

Students at a previous year’s Mechanical Engineering showcase event (photo by Camosun College A/V Services).

“We’ve had a few successes in the past, word of mouth has spread, and other companies are coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, why don’t you come pay us a visit? We’ve got a few ideas in the fire that we’d love for you to tackle,’” says Stephen. “As the program goes along, we’re becoming quite an interesting bit of the local commerce.”

All of which sounds great, but is the average student studying, say, psychology at Lansdowne going to venture out to Interurban for the event? Well, apart from the draw of the aforementioned beer, Stephen says that the skills on display can be applied to all disciplines.

“It’s a great demonstration of ingenuity of inventive thought, no matter what your discipline is,” he says. “And our students have really studied that process. To go and talk to them, to get explanations from them about how the process started with zero ideas on the board to an actual physical product, that can be applied to every discipline. Whether you’re in software or hardware or a cook, we all go through this creative process.”

Stephen says the showcase has ventured out this year, and as a result the ties with local businesses have expanded, which brings us back to the beer machine, definitely something worth making the trek out to Interurban for.

“We really put ourselves out there this year,” says Stephen. “We have stronger ties within the community and industry, and the industry is moreso coming to us with their issues rather than us going to them. And we’re more than happy to take it on.”

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