photo-contributed

UBC Okanagan engineers look to make donation bins safer

New funding is helping the team retrofit bins

A UBCO project to prevent people from getting trapped in clothing donations bins has received a boost in funding.

After eight deaths since 2015, many charities across the country pulled their clothing donation bins from the streets. People were climbing inside the bins to collect items, but some became trapped and suffocated inside.

Removing the bins didn’t solve the problem, but it sparked an idea at UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering. Last fall, first-year students were asked to come up with modifications to existing bins as part of their engineering design course. Several conceptual ideas were proposed, with the best selected by a panel of social activists and design and manufacturing experts.

The original intent was to forward these designs to the fourth-year engineering capstone design course. However, with the added public awareness and most bins removed from the streets, it was determined that a design task force should be established.

The task force was recently presented with a $75,000 injection of funding from the Firstline Foundation to design and create a prototype as well as test retrofit kits for existing bin designs.

READ MORE: UBC Okanagan researcher joins team to protect B.C. forested watersheds

READ MORE: Vision revealed for UBCO growth over next 20 years

“This project will enable a multi-million dollar industry to continue to operate by providing safe options that will ensure safety and operability,” said Ray Taheri, a senior engineering instructor and task force lead.

“This funding is crucial to addressing this issue in an efficient way and to ultimately to help save lives.”

The project isn’t without its challenges, as donation bins come in a variety of shapes, sizes and configurations, Taheri explains. Each has a different design and uses a different door mechanism. As a result, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Consequently, the task force may need to design unique stand-alone retrofitted solutions for each style of bin.

According to Taheri, momentum from the initial design course has focused the group’s efforts on developing retrofit kits for existing donation bins while investigating intelligent systems that can unlock bins or alert emergency services.

“Anecdotally we know the majority of these incidents occur between 10 p.m. and 8 a.m., so we are looking at a few options including engaging automated locking systems between those hours,” he said.

The donation bin industry is a multi-million dollar enterprise across North America and funds charitable organizations including the Salvation Army, Diabetes Canada, Big Brothers and Sisters, Goodwill and many others.

It’s not the first time UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering has been active in providing solutions to help under-serviced groups. Three years ago, a project to design a personal belonging carrier for the homeless was a class assignment. Now several carriers, manufactured at UBCO, are on the streets of Kelowna through a partnership with Metro Community Church.

“Many people look at engineering as solely technical innovation, but we are noticing that our researchers and students are championing social innovation through their projects and activities,” said School of Engineering associate dean Rehan Sadiq.

With the infusion of funding from the Firstline Foundation, Taheri and the design task force are hopeful they will find a solution that will save lives and help charities across North America continue to benefit from the generosity of their communities.

To report a typo, email:
newstips@kelownacapnews.com
.


@KelownaCapNews
newstips@kelownacapnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Malakwa woman still in the running for winning American baking show

Janet Letendre is the only Canadian competing on the Holiday Baking Championship

Revelstoke City Council approves Temporary Use Permits

Councillors Cody Younker and Steven Cross voted against the ammendments

Cloudy in Revelstoke today

High four degrees

Chasing a Trace wolverine movie showing in Revelstoke Nov. 28

Learn more about the regional project Wolverine Watch

Gym enthusiasts invited to get in gear for kids

Spin4Kids Saturday at GoodLife Fitness

B.C. government working with RCMP to address $10 million in budget cuts

Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issues statement following report of RCMP cost-cutting

‘City that protects rapists’: Sexual assault survivor slams Kelowna mayor for defending RCMP

Heather Friesen spent the morning handing out flyers around city hall calling out the mayor

BC Liquor Stores to move fully to paper bags by March

Vancouver Island to be the first to convert to paper bags in November

New Okanagan resident building skills and community

The Respect Works Here November Multicultural Community Champion

SilverStar to open Nordic trails Saturday in North Okanagan

25 km of groomed trails are ready to explore by cross-country skiers

Salmon Arm businesses tipped off to Black Press advantage

Black Press Media hosts day of presentations for local business representatives

Tolko shuts B.C. divisions for two weeks over holidays

Head office to close from Dec. 23-27; two weeks’ downtime runs Dec. 21-Jan. 6

Port Moody mayor says stayed sex assault charge related to ‘awkward date’

Rob Vagramov said charge was related to a string of dates in 2015

Most Read