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Vol 38  No 13
April 27, 2006


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Sexual health and engineering

By Michelle Osmond

Our Pleasure customized logo and some of the store’s products.

Most people may not associate engineering and sexual health but an unusual partnership between the store Our Pleasure and the Faculty of Engineering proved that engineering is used in just about everything.

Engineering’s Industrial Outreach is based out of a relatively small room in the basement of the S. J. Carew Building with one window that does not let in much light. It has a few desks with computers, a couple of tables and two strange looking pieces of equipment, one of which looks like a combination between an x-ray machine and a tanning bed. But outreach in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science goes way beyond this small inconspicuous room. It reaches out to businesses and new inventors across the province, giving them a place to make their products or services better or just find out if their ideas will take off.

Deanna Cheeke is the corporate development co- ordinator for Our Pleasure, a sexual health store in downtown St. John’s. She’s also a mechanical engineer, having graduated from Memorial in 1997. Ms. Cheeke’s company wanted to grow and brand the business by extending the use of their logo. To do this they wanted to develop some new products. The products Our Pleasure wanted were a custom soap mould bearing the logo and a distinctive shape and a custom bottle shape for putting some of their liquid products in to resell. So, she approached Dr. Andy Fisher, the co-ordinator of the Industrial Outreach Group and a former professor of hers, who in turn approached a co-operative education student and Technical Services.

Caryn Phillips, a mechanical engineering student put in charge of these tasks as part of her first work term, says she thought the work was unusual for an engineering group to take on.

“It was not my idea of what an engineer would design,” she said. “But the more I got into it, the more I realized I was still following all the same steps and I had to approach it in the same way I would any engineering design problem to ensure I created the best product possible. You get some interesting reactions when you tell people you’re designing custom products for Our Pleasure.”

For the soap mould, Ms. Phillips came up with a few base designs and pulled pieces from each design to create one that suited the aesthetic and practical aspects of the product, which would also be used for a massage oil formed into a solid.

Ms. Phillips used solid modeling software and worked closely with Technical Services to fabricate a mould master which could be used for vacuum forming multiple plastic mould forms.

“It was satisfying to hold the prototype in my hand and think that I had a part in making it. Just to see a project come to an end and see that the client is really pleased with the work you have done was a great feeling.”

The second project, a bottle in the shape of two human forms, is on hold. It was a much more intricate design but Ms. Cheeke says they plan to pursue it sometime in the future.

Ms. Cheeke says the partnership with the faculty worked out perfectly. They want to partner with as many local companies as possible. She says it keeps everything honest when you can talk face to face.

“The faculty, students and technicians were easy to talk to and understood very quickly what we were looking for. We were very impressed with the quality of the product. Not just with the engineers but with the technicians. Even when I was a student at MUN, I liked that the university, through Technical Services, added a strong, practical common sense element to projects like this.”

The Industrial Outreach Group has also partnered with a number of other companies recently like Canadian Gold, which used a local consultant who had developed a statistical approach to determining the relative meat content of lobsters. Gander-based firm Superior Coatings was another client. They are introducing a new type of basement coating which they believe offers significant energy saving as well as water-proofing. Dr. Fisher said projects like this bring faculty, staff and students in touch with unique engineering R&D projects. “Industrial applications introduce a level of “messiness” and complication which don’t typically arise in textbook problems. Exposure to this type of work also introduces the pressures of time and budgets which is the reality of engineering practice.” He also added that while these benefits are excellent, the main objective is to support the economic development of external community through access to the unique facilities and capabilities of the faculty.

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