Wednesday, 07 November 2018

Thinking inside the box

 POD PEOPLE: Group 34 tries out the Student Pod. POD PEOPLE: Group 34 tries out the Student Pod.

Finding a quiet spot for group study work on campus is more difficult than you think. Silence is required in the library, it’s too hot to sit outside, lecture rooms are in use.

With that in mind, Mechanical Engineering lecturer Fareed Ismail set a group of BTech Mechanical Engineering Students a task – create a contained space for students to use without getting heatstroke.

“I suggested a study pod as I saw our quad areas were hardly used by students because there was no covering or shading,” said Ismail.

Group 34 (Jaco Swiegelaar, Stefan Gunter, Hanò Kriel and Bartlo Crous) took nine months from inception of idea to completion to build a proof of concept and present it at the Mechanical Engineering BTech poster and presentation day.

The initial stage of the project was to determine feasibility: “This included questionnaires to students on how they use their free time at the campus and whether they would like the study pod option to carry out work,” explained Ismail.

Feedback from students was positive and the group started brainstorming ideas, chose and designed a particular concept, commissioned the manufacture of various components and finished the pod just in time to show the lecturers the Student Pod.

They chose an industrial look of wood and galvanised steel and created a pod that can seat four people around a table on the one side and two people on the other side of an internal dividing wall. The whole pod sits on casters so it can be moved around.

“The plan is to continue upgrades to the pod next year by powering it with renewable energy so students can plug in cell phones and laptop chargers,” said Ismail.

Funding for this proof of concept came from the university’s Capacity Development Programme (programme 1, activity 4 is for creating learning spaces for students) and Ismail says if they can source additional funding they would try to develop more while upgrading this first design.

“I had my first meeting with a group of students in the pod and it was very comfortable. If the university is serious about developing entrepreneurship this is an opportunity where we can expand the project into a fully developed business. Obviously, this would take time and commitment from various partners but I feel this is possible,” said Ismail.

“They say you should think outside the box, but we say come and think inside our pod,” said Hano Kriel during their presentation.

Jaco Swiegelaar said they would welcome suggestions on how to improve the pod and make it effective for long-term use. “We would like to incorporate a system that requires students to swipe their student cards if they want to use the pod. Such a system would incorporate some kind of timer that indicates when use of the pod has expired,” said Jaco.


Written by Theresa Smith


Provides coverage for the Applied Sciences and Engineering Faculties and the Wellington Campus.