True Chesapeake Oyster Co. in St. Mary’s County has a problem. Three College of Southern Maryland (CSM) students have come up with a potential solution.
True Chesapeake Oyster Co., a farm-raised oyster business on St. Jerome Creek, is hand-counting its oysters as they are packaged for shipment. They are counting out 1,000 oysters at a time, a tedious and time-wasting task.
This problem was explained to students George Jenkins of La Plata, Wen Xing Lin of St. Leonard and Dillon Mandley of La Plata, all members of the college’s competitive robotics team the Talons. Within a week, the three students created a machine, a kind of robot utilizing conveyer belts, which organizes oysters into a single line to then pass through a laser counter. No human counting required.
“They exceeded my wildest expectations,” said Thomas Luginbill, director of CSM’s Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute. “It was awesome, and it worked.”
Lin and Mandley presented the machine at the inaugural CSM F3 Challenge on May 13 at College of Southern Maryland’s Prince Frederick Campus. Billed as a judged, one-day technology and innovation hackathon, the event was a chance for participants to suggest ways to pair agriculture with technology. Students in high school and college were invited to take part in the challenge, as well as local advocates and businesses. In addition to the demonstration of the oyster machine, a local farmer Susan Cox, aka “Mrs. Moo,” presented an idea for exposing more school-age children to the realities and economics of farming. And CSM student Nicholus Steward and his wife, Alicia Steward, suggested a way to bring high-speed broadband to rural parts of Maryland.
Ultimately, the judges selected the Talons oyster machine and the students won $1,000. The invention created a great deal of interest at the event, and the students may profit beyond their prize money. “There are people already interested in sponsoring them,” Luginbill stated.
Much larger machines are available that perform similarly to the Talons prototype but at a cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Jenkins, Lin and Mandley estimate that their machine would cost between $500 and $600, adding to the attraction of their solution.
An observer at the challenge asked if the oyster machine could work for clams. The students were indeed able to come up with a variation that would accommodate that mollusk, as well.
Funds for the challenge were provided by the Charles County and Calvert County departments of economic development.
For information on the Entrepreneur and Innovation Institute at CSM, visit http://www.csmd.edu/community/institutes/eii/.