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Engineering idea to help people a world away

By Costa Maragos Posted: April 27, 2016 4:00 p.m.

Students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science with their human powered kitchen mixer. Ibim Felix Inko-Tariah (seated) with (l-r) Syed Mehroz Ali and Christopher Chmielewski.
Students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science with their human powered kitchen mixer. Ibim Felix Inko-Tariah (seated) with (l-r) Syed Mehroz Ali and Christopher Chmielewski. Photo: External Relations

Sometimes, the best ideas are found close to home.

Engineering student Ibim Felix Inko-Tariah can attest to that. Inko-Tariah and fellow Engineering students Syed Mehroz Ali and Christopher Chmielewski have come up with a human powered kitchen mixer.  

The idea for the mixer comes from Inko-Tariah, whose mother runs a bakery back home in Nigeria.

“Every single thing has been done manually at the bakery because the power supply in Nigeria is very very bad,” says Inko-Tariah.

That means electric power mixers, while preferable, are also unreliable given Nigeria’s problematic power system. One option is the purchase of a generator, but that would make the cost prohibitive for small, family run bakery operations in most third world countries.

When the student team started thinking of ideas for their final engineering project, they were motivated with the idea of helping people.

“This idea came up because we talked about the number of musculoskeletal injuries that could arise from constant hand mixing in a bakery,” says Inko-Tariah, who could attest to this by observing his mother work in the bakery back home. She and her employees routinely have to mix at least nine litres of batter, by hand.

The students have a better idea. They’ve come up with a mixer driven by foot pedals.

Using pedal power instead of hands allows workers to avoid some of those nagging muscle pains and strains that come from constant pushing and mixing of heavy batter.

“There are some very practical elements to our mixer,” says Christopher Chmielewski. “The size of the bowl is interchangeable. It can be used for not just batter, but for other foods as well. We could make some modifications such as changing this to a table top mount and reducing the weight. But overall we are very pleased with the result.”
 
Adding to the design comfort is an adjustable seat.

“This project turned out really well. It was hard work that turned an idea to reality,” says Syed Mehroz Ali.

Inko-Tariah was asked how his mother feels about his project.

“She was elated and excited when she saw this idea come to life. Now she’s asking me ‘when do I get one of these?’ ”

The Human Powered Kitchen Mixer was one of dozens of final-year projects on display by fourth year Engineering students at the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science’s annual Project Day.

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