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Trial Run: Mini Senior Design Challenge With Rise Against Hunger

Rice Bag Challenge at NC State

By Julie Watterson – Julie is a senior Textile Technology student and a writer for the Wilson College of Textiles Marketing and Communications office. This is part of our Perspectives series. The goal of Perspectives is to share stories from different groups within the College: students, faculty, staff and administration. We want to expand both the range of voices and the kinds of stories we tell.

As I joined more than 90 other Textile Technology and Textile Engineering students who entered the Senior Design Capstone Course, TE 401, work began right away on a mini Senior Design project. Groups were tasked with the rice bag challenge, making its appearance for the fourth year at the Wilson College of Textiles.

“The first NC State Rice Bag contest took place in the Fall 2014; my daughter Molly Renaud was a senior in Textile Engineering then,” said Paul Renaud, director, Global Acquisitions at Rise Against Hunger.

In 2017, Stop Hunger Now became Rise Against Hunger. This organization continues its efforts to end world hunger through packaging nutritious meals that are distributed globally. Rise Against Hunger strives to achieve three goals of food, community, and sustainability. Through nourishing lives, providing crisis relief and empowering communities, Rise Against Hunger works to make a global impact.

“To me, the purpose of this project is threefold. For students to 1) learn how to solve an open-ended problem with a hard deadline; 2) interact with their teammates to learn learn more about their own leadership style and better understand the team dynamics and 3) think creatively to solve a real world problem,” said Dr. Russell Gorga, professor, who with Dr. Jesse Jur, associate professor, teaches the Senior Design Capstone course.

Julie Watterson Rice Bag Demonstration
Writer and student Julie Watterson (left) and her team demonstrate how they turned a rice bag into a poncho as part of a mini Senior Design project in conjunction with Rise Against Hunger.

The organization has expressed their need to keep excess rice bags out of landfills. Coincidentally, the biaxially oriented polypropylene structure of these bags makes for a sturdy material desirable in many applications. Senior teams were given the starting parameters of two rice bags and a $10 budget to create a prototype. The end goal was to repurpose the bags into sustainable products that would assist individuals in developing countries.

“We’re trying to reuse rice bags that are currently thrown away and make them into new types of products that could be used in a third world country,” said Jur.

This mini project is perfect for the first week of the semester as the rice bag challenge has proven to be a great team building exercise. Groups are quickly given an idea of how they work together, who works best in which roles, and how ideation and prototyping plays out in a collective team.

“This is perfect for teaching sustainability within the college and also how we teach product development as we move on in the class. This is the first time they’ve developed a product in the class so it’s a good learning mechanism for how engineering design works,” said Jur.

With one week to go from an idea on paper to a tangible product, my group worked quickly to write down aspects of products we liked, feasible or not. Within about 30 minutes of brainstorming together we came to the conclusion of creating a rain poncho that could be donned but would also double as a tent. It was neat to see my group members delve into working on different aspects such as design, cutting and sewing, cost parameters, and finding needed materials.

“We are always amazed by the creativity and resourcefulness of senior engineering students,” expressed Renaud.

Rice Bag Winners 2017

This year’s winning designs included first place winner, “Sanitary Pad” with group members Taylor Adams, Paige Esguerra, Brianna Ims and Xenz Hong.

The second place team won by creating a “Pancho.” Team members included Emma Jenio, Sean Bowman, Aaron Wang and Hannah Parey.

Third place was a tie between two mechanisms for planters. One group was composed of students Matthew Rowley, Sydney Kidwell, Ariana Rogers-Smith and Austin Clark. Seniors Mollie Fisher, Chaz Fitzpatrick, Jeremiah Millikan and Zachary Brady made up the other third place group.

An honorable mention of creativity went to the group who created two items with their rice bags but also made a pamphlet with further ideas that individuals in developing world countries could build.

As we look forward to two semesters of focused research, prototyping, and trial and error, I think all my group members can agree that we will enjoy the hands-on experiences that senior Design provides.

Visit Rise Against Hunger for more information on their mission to end hunger by 2030.

View last year’s (2016-2017) senior class as they tackled the same challenge.