Duke Students on the Forest: Engineering first-years

🎥 Click the image above to launch a video explaining how these students applied their engineering education to solve a real-world problem by building the device.

Engineering first-years build mast collector

Under the supervision of Biomedical Engineering Professor Ann Saterback and Duke Forest Director Sara Childs, first-year Duke engineering students Jin Cho, Jack Horton, Tommy Howell, Jenny Xin, and Leo Young, designed (fall semester) and modified (spring semester) a mast collection device to sort falling mast from leaves and branches. Read a summary of their project here.

The students write that “Mast are the seeds of trees and [in this project] include acorns, hickory nuts, and beech nuts. Mast are everywhere in the Duke Forest, and are especially prevalent during masting years when trees release a heightened volume of mast. The number of mast can cause fluctuations in animal populations and can also lead to human-wildlife interactions as mast can collect along the sides of trails. In addition, trees expend much of their resources to produce mast.”

Mast cycles of trees are sensitive to environmental changes like climate change and are crucial to studying the local effects of global system changes. It will be important to continue studying mast cycles to give local feedback on complex and interconnected global problems. Sorting mast by hand is cumbersome and time consuming. Perhaps with a mast sorting and collecting device like the ones these student designed, researchers can spend more time on research and less time sorting through other tree debris.

🎥 Click above to see a short video of how the mast collector sorts mast from branches and leaves.

Director Sara Childs requested the students’ design help for ongoing and future projects that collect mast in the Duke Forest like Dr. Jim Clark’s lab.

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