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Ministry of Education.
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Electronically activated drinking fountain

Owen's class was asked to identify an issue at St Mark's Church School – an inner-city school next to Wellington College – and come up with a solution for it. After discussing possible projects, examining potential needs and exploring the locality and extensive dialogue and review, Owen decided to design and produce a drinking fountain. For this project he worked with three students from the school who acted as clients.

Owen approached his task from a highly creative standpoint, and investigated various options and designs in consultation with his student clients, including whether to make a wall mounted or free standing fountain. Not satisfied with reproducing a 'standard' model, Owen finally settled on a solution that would not only make use of the latest technology – an electronically activated switch for the water flow – but reflect this approach by incorporating a space-age design. For this he received useful advice from Victoria University design student mentors.

Owen first made a high-density foam model to establish the overall profile and shape – a challenge due to the continuous natural curves of his design. He cut the main form using a hot wire cutter sourced from Massey University, and then sanded this to a smooth finish. He then tested this model for height with St Mark's students and found it too low, so he added to the base to raise its height, reshaped and refinished the surface.

Satisfied with the final shape and dimensions, Owen then coated the foam form with papier-mâché and then plaster. He chose papier-mâché because it was cheaper and easier to work with than fibre-glass, although this meant his prototype was not so robust. He then chiselled out the foam core, fitted the water pipes and installed a water pump and light-sensitive sensor, which, when covered with a hand, activates the pump.

The use of a light-sensitive switch was a highly successful innovation. Its incorporation kept the cost of the project to a minimum, as a mechanical equivalent would have been much more expensive to produce. Owen looked at various options for this switch, including building one himself, but found that an off-the-shelf mechanism was the most economic.

St Mark's student having a drink.

St Mark's student having a drink.

Owen retested his prototype with St Mark students and found that the water came out too forcefully and overshot the water tray. This was fixed by installing a cramping mechanism on to the water tube which could be adjusted to control the water flow.

Owen finished his prototype by painting it in St Marks colours.

Encouraged to continue refining this project in Year 13, in true entrepreneurial spirit, Owen chose instead to embark on a completely new project that made use of the experience gained in this project – an electronically activated pet feeder.
 

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