Marine Scotland Science colleagues mentor Product Design student
For the fifth year in a row, Marine Scotland Science colleague John Dunn has mentored a PDE (Product Design Engineering) student from Glasgow School of Art.
This year’s student, William Balloch, had the task of designing a better chlorophyll filtering system for use on board research vessels. Given the importance of this particular job and the volumes of water needed to be filtered, it is somewhat surprising that there is no current commercial system available to workers in this field. The system which we use on MRVs Scotia and Alba Na Mara was manufactured in the lab from pieces of available lab-ware and suffers from leaks and being fiddly and awkward to use.
William, a qualified engineer already, arrived at the lab in late summer never having been in Aberdeen, let alone a marine laboratory. I showed him our current system and talked him through the job we wanted the filtration system to do. He made copious notes, took photographs and made lots of measurements. I also talked him through some of my ideas on how things could be improved and was able to give him some video footage of the current apparatus being used. This helped to highlight some of the design problems associated with the current kit.
Over the months, and after a constant flow of emails backwards and forwards and several more visits to Aberdeen, William started work on his design.
During January and February this year, things went very quiet and I was concerned that perhaps William had become swamped by the enormity of the task. However, I needn’t have worried as he then emailed me his design and the dissertation on how he had worked through the various engineering and materials design issues. Not only had he produced an excellent design (the Neptune Vacuum Filtration System), but he had actually built a working prototype which, after some minor modifications, we hope to test on-board Scotia quite soon.
Unfortunately, I was unable to go to the degree show at Glasgow University School of Art, but my colleagues Dr Berit Rabe, Pam Walsham and Matt Geldart did attend and they were unanimously impressed by both William and the prototype design he had constructed.
William’s enthusiasm for the project remains undimmed and even though he has secured a job, he is very keen to continue working on the project to ensure that it meets our exacting scientific demands. A number of commercial companies have been contacted and I am confident that at least one of them will be keen to produce this excellent piece of apparatus commercially.
We will keep you updated with William’s success!