During the autumn of 2011, Date Palm Developments (DPD) was approached by the EDT (Engineering Development Trust) project to sponsor a local school, The Blue School, Wells, in a science and engineering project.
An independent registered charity, established in 1984, the EDT runs schemes to inspire and motivate young people to choose a career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).
EDT’s STEM scheme encourages work related learning for 11 to 21 year-olds, to enhance their technical, personal and employability skills through industry-led projects, industrial placements and specialised courses. In this instance DPD became involved with the Engineering Education Scheme (England and Scotland) in a 6-month STEM project for four 16-17 year old students, chosen by their school.
For many years, DPD has been recognised by the ‘torpedo’ style pots used for growing and shipping their tissue culture date palm plants. With DPD always looking to research and improve all aspects of their Date Palm production, the EDT project provided the perfect opportunity to study potential pot improvements, whilst creating an excellent project for the students.
With the able and enthusiastic support of our systems support engineer Peter Duncan and the assistance of senior management of the local Avalon Plastics company, DPD agreed to sponsor 4 pupils from Wells Blue Secondary School, to design a plant pot and carrier tray for the culture of our date palm plants.
DPD provided the initial design brief, including consideration of the requirements for optimal plant growth, the economics of space utilisation, packing volume, weight, cost of manufacture and the ergonomics/requirements of manual handling.
At a workshop hosted by the City of Bristol College’s Engineering Department, the project progressed to the design of 4 possible styles of pot from which one would be selected for a prototype to be constructed. With input and fine-tuning from DPD in the selection process, the design of pot and carrying tray was finalised. The students were able to experience and make use of the latest computer aided design programmes and expert tuition from the College engineering staff, culminating in the production of a prototype using a state of the art 3D printing facility.
The pots will be manufactured from polypropylene using injection moulding. Using the final design drawings created by the students, moulding tools can be created for the plant pot and carrier tray. We are currently consulting with a local company, Avalon Plastics, who are providing advice on this concept and the final manufacturing procedure. If feasible and economical, DPD could then be supplied locally, with a product that fits its requirements. The 4 pupils would have fulfilled their project goals, gained invaluable experience in a practical, commercial design and manufacturing project and reached a very satisfactory conclusion for all parties concerned.
The above photograph shows the four students, their teacher and our systems support engineer together at the EDT celebration day held in Bristol at the beginning of May. One of DPD’s directors, Mr. Shailesh Pandya (Atul Europe) was invited to be on the panel of assessors for the 27 schools who entered from the South West of England, where he gained insight into some the latest engineering design and technology development programs from leading UK manufacturers.