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MIL OSI – Canterbury students win national engineering prize for adventure tourism design

 March 13, 2015

A University of Canterbury student flying fox engineering design project involving a 400 metre high-wire ride dropping 150 vertical metres down the face of Coronet Peak has been national recognised.

Mechanical engineering honours students Ryan McKay, Sean Syman, Charles More and Craig MacDonald received the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand Ray Meyer Medal for excellence in student design at an awards event in Wellington tonight.

Mechanical engineering at the University of Canterbury has won the Ray Meyer Medal nine times in the last 11 years which is an endorsement for the No.1 engineering college in New Zealand. The award is made annually for the best student engineering project from all universities and polytechnics.

The concept for this zipline trolley originated because of a commercial gap in the adventure tourism market; the designed trolley provides Holmes Solutions with a new product with strong market possibilities.

The smooth ride and constant speed of this trolley make it ideal for canopy tours, where groups of people travel down a series of ziplines or flying fox through varying levels of a forest. This trolley allows for riders to travel steadily regardless of the incline, appreciating the beauty of nature.

The student team analysed the problem, predicted forces and speeds, designed the device to do the job, got it built and then tested it on a trial zipline they erected at Christchurch’s Spencer Park. Associate Professor John Pearse who supervised the project established the viability of the concept and provided useful guidance for developing a successful product.

“Ziplines are simple a cable is connected from one platform to another, often crossing a valley or using other natural gradients. The industry sponsor of this project, Holmes Solutions, came to us with this problem with the idea of integrating of their eddy current braking system with a zipline trolley.

“This provided a non-contact, constant velocity brake which removes the complications of wear and provides a smooth ride limiting all riders to the same speed. The students chose this research study as it provided a use for ski fields’ infrastructure during summer months, which opens a new market within the New Zealand adventure tourism industry.

“As with any adventure ride, safety is of the highest importance. The zipline trolley designed for this project incorporates multiple connection points for both the rider to the trolley, and the trolley to the line. High factors of safety were used in the construction of the frame to ensure no component would fail in operation.

The key innovation is being able to obtain a constant and controlled descent speed. By comparison other braking systems tend to speed up when the overhead wire takes a steeper angle.

“The award is a massive endorsement of the quality of our teaching and research at Canterbury and it also reflects the outstanding capability of our students to complete projects whose tangible deliverables have significant impact for end-users, companies, sponsors and the country,” Associate Professor Pearse says.

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