The Animal Shelter Project gives members of EWB/WP a chance to make a difference in the local community as well as apply the stages of the engineering design process in a small, real-world environment. It is unique experience because an important part of working as an engineer in any industry is being able to communicate with the client and produce a good and sustainable solution to their problem. In this group, EWB/WP members assess what can be done to help Animal House Adoption Center through research, on-site evaluations, and feedback from the shelter itself. Students then plan a course of action, gather supplies (including donations from local companies where possible), evaluate possible obstacles, and schedule implementation to be as efficient as possible. Working with EWB team and the shelter every step of the way, the original design is evaluated and improved upon until the best possible version is installed to meet the shelter’s needs. If the sample product performs well and meets all the necessary criteria, the solution is repeated and implemented wherever needed. In the past, the team has made designs for outdoor playground equipment for the dogs, chew toys and treat dispensers, and low-maintenance water bowls that kept fresh water for the animals when outside.
Our most recent project (2019) has been installing scratching “posts” in every cat condo for enrichment and healthiness. The shelter wanted a scratch post that was low maintenance, removable, washable, and good exercise for the cats. We decided to obtain used carpet squares from a Louisville company and hang them from the wall of the condo (cubicle where the cat is kept). When sewing or gluing Velcro on the carpets didn’t keep the carpets on the walls, it was decided to cut a hole in the top of the carpet and hang it from a Command strip instead. This worked much better and made it easier for shelter volunteers to remove and wash the carpets.
Although these tasks are not extremely elaborate, they are good examples of the engineering design process, and they give students practice working with a client to accomplish a goal. We are proud of our partnership with Animal House Adoption Center and look forward to working with them more in the future.