MIT serves up food-related inventions

Posted by Kate Taylor

MIT's well-known Product Engineering Processes class - aka 2.009 - has come up with its inventions for the year, all of which are food-related.

The challenge was to design a device that has something to do with the production, processing, marketing or use of food. All eight of the final prototype products were taken from initial brainstorming to a polished product and a business plan in less than three months. Each team had a budget of $6,500 and a team of mentors.

'Grocery mate' is a collapsible basket that can attach easily to a wheelchair and can carry up to 40 pounds. It removes the need to perch a supermarket basket precariously - and uncomfortably - on the user's lap or use a basket-equipped scooter from the store.

"It would definitely make shopping a lot easier for me. I really hope they do continue with it," said Colleen Rock, a wheelchair-using freshman. She said it offered "more independent users something that won't interfere with their activities, because it's easily removable.”

Other products included devices for farmers, such as a more efficient way of washing eggs designed for small chicken farms. There was also a way of making powdered milk powered just by a wood fire and bicycle pedals; this is aimed at dairy farmers in developing countries whose produce might otherwise spoil before it could get to market.

Devices for consumers included a system for quickly and conveniently measuring flour and another for dispensing precise amounts of different spices.

One catering invention was a robotic system that could follow a line along a countertop to deliver trays of sushi to customers, and another a device for cutting potatoes into a precise shape called a tourné. There was also a device that could be installed in health clubs to wash, sterilize and refill water bottles.