A field of his own
One of our Product Design students has helped the University of Otago to test a health treatment innovation.
In mid 2017 we were contacted by the University of Otago working on developing new technologies to improve disease treatment. To test their innovation, they sought our help to develop a small backpack that would be easily attached to and detached from a harness worn by sheep. This system would i) reduce the time necessary to fix the equipment onto the sheep, therefore reducing the possible stress induced by prolonged manipulation and ii) allow the University to use a mock backpack to habituate the sheep to the weight of the equipment on the day preceding behavioural testing. Local firm Kamahi Electronics was also involved in the project, with respect to the equipment.
This research project was picked up by one of our Product Design students, Casey Munro. To create a durable, waterproof patch, he used an industrial sewing machine from our fashion school, a glue-welded PVC material filled with 3mm foam and a reinforced aluminium plate that runs down the spine of the animal. Casey modified a commercial ram harness to carry the backpack, which needed to stay rigid but not impair the animals' movement. He refined the design at least 10 times and at one stage was visiting the farm every one to two weeks to test his prototypes.
Casey found it satisfying to work with real clients on a project. If successful, this novel drug delivery system could pave the way for treatments for neurological conditions in people. The harness could also be modified for other animals and other uses, including the GPS tracking of stock on large properties.