January 6, 2000 | By: Haven Miller

Combining skill, creativity, and practical need, UK biosystems and agricultural engineering students have designed some exciting new innovations.

One of the innovations is a new-style cervical orthosis, or "halo" brace, designed for people with spinal injuries. Agricultural engineering seniors Virginia-Bibb Golden and Leigh Bonta gathered data from doctors and biomedical engineers to come up with the new design that combines a helmet traditionally worn by horse riders with a lightweight plastic waist brace.

"Our goal was to give the patient more mobility, reduce pressure sores, and still provide the necessary stabilization," said Bonta.

"This kind of senior project simulates the real world in terms of dealing with patients and professionals and other people, and in the business aspects of it," said Golden. "I think the experience has been extremely valuable for us, and also for the other students."

Other projects include a quarter-scale tractor design; a system for drying taxus clippings for medicinal uses; and a food composting system for a rural Kentucky school.

For the composting system, students Eddie Kwong, Ainsley Lee, and Kristyn Sharber proposed a three-bin, aerated shed. Leaves, newsprint, sawdust, and food waste are combined in specific amounts to achieve desired moisture content and carbon-to-nitrogen ratios. The result is an economic method for producing compost that can be applied to soil around the school.

Laura Arnold, Juli Brady, Todd Reeb, and Jennifer Thompson designed a rotary-drum system for drying taxus needles. The needles are a source of taxol, a cancer-fighting substance. The system is engineered to dry up to 1 million kilograms of clippings per year, and is more fuel- efficient than other methods.

Mark Caldwell, Justin Leach, John-Paul Jones, and Jeremy Hudson set four goals in designing a quarter-scale competition tractor: ease of assembly, ease of service, increased operator safety, and increased customer satisfaction.

"With the exception of slightly increased weight, we feel we met all of our goals," said Caldwell. The tractor will be entered into competition with 34 other schools.

The four projects are the semester finale for students in the senior capstone design course offered by the Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering department of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"These projects bring a lot of elements together," said Larry Wells, UK professor of agricultural engineering. "They require students to combine analytical thinking, engineering skill learned over many semesters, and teamwork principles to solve practical design challenges."


Larry Wells 606-257-3000