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This is my story

Alexander Schettino ’11

Engineering Aid

For my senior engineering project, I designed a piece of equipment that will enable farmers in Kenya to more efficiently cultivate their fields. It’s a thresher that separates seeds from stalks of amaranth grain. My project is the latest piece of the University’s participation in a project to help increase crop production in Kenya’s Lake Region. University students and faculty have made three trips to the country in two years and I plan to go there this summer.

I got the idea for the thresher from Professor Bernard denOuden, who teaches in philosophy in the College of Arts and Sciences. He spoke to the University’s Engineers Without Borders chapter about his trip to Kenya and noted the need for a thresher to help farmers’ production. Even though the farmers have four or five acres of land they can only farm an acre-and-a-half or two because, without machines, the work is so time and labor intensive. The thresher will make it easier to harvest larger tracts of land therefore increasing the amount of amaranth they can grow and freeing up more time to do other things.

I started with a design and then developed a three-dimensional model. When I created the actual thresher the basics remained the same but I had to change the dimensions and many of the features. After I bring it to Kenya this summer and receive feedback from farmers, I will be able to make even more changes.

I designed the thresher to be inexpensive and relatively simple to build. I also wanted to make sure the farmers can easily adapt the design to fit the particular needs of their land.  I hope eventually the threshers will be built and owned by many farmers. Some might even sell them to make money. I’m pleased that this fits into the Kenya project’s goal of helping villagers create sustainable solutions to problems.


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