UBC Okanagan students design donor boxes for safer clothing



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Hundreds of UBC Okanagan first year engineering students have created new designs for clothing donation boxes.

The projects were exhibited at the university on Sunday afternoon. A panel of judges is choosing the best.

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The project was given to UBC Okanagan first-year students after the death of Svetlana, a homeless woman looking for clothes.

In July, Svetlana was trapped inside a Vancouver donation box and died, raising the toll on clothing cans in the Lower Mainland every three years.

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"We've had donation boxes for clothing for almost 20 years and we've been in the clothing collections business since 1980. We have a lot of experience and we've seen a real increase in problems in the last few years," Deanna said. Barlow, a spokeswoman for the Developmental Disabilities Association.

"Our biggest challenge with donation boxes is that people are stealing gifts from trash cans, so it's a constant battle to keep people safe and out of containers."

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The gate mechanism in the old dumpsters that is designed to keep worn clothing safe and protected can also trap a person inside it.

"The problem was very local and something we felt we could have a direct impact on," said first-year engineering student Parker Cowan.

"A big problem now is that people's arms are stuck in the mechanism. They are often deprived people, they are cold and they are looking for clothes to stay warm, "Cowan said. "So that was our main focus, designing something with no points of contact and no areas for them to get stuck."

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First year students used 3D printers to design mini-prototypes of new boxes that correct the fatal flaw.

"Students are coming up with different types of projects, some of them related to electronics, some of them implement mechanical devices," said Ray Taheri, senior engineering instructor at UBC Okanagan. "But the main goal is to prevent people from being harmed by these donation boxes."

The goal is for fourth year engineering students to produce a fully functional prototype of top design, then test it in the community next year, he added.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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