March 31st, 2020

Students study bamboo alternative

By Lethbridge Herald on August 12, 2019.

Dave Mabell

Lethbridge Herald

Bamboo is as common as grass in some parts of the world.

Its wood is used to create baskets, chairs and many everyday items.

But can it replace steel “rebar” in a construction project?

That’s the question posed by three recent graduates of the engineering design and drafting technology program at Lethbridge College.

Tyson Baldrey, Randy Holmberga and Allan Johnston determined that bamboo was indeed a viable alternative, while pointing out their testing was based on small-scale loads and construction. More research is needed.

In recognition of their research, the three were named winners of an annual competition organized by the Association of Science and Engineering Technology Professionals of Alberta. Their annual Capstone Project of the Year award cited the project’s goals, ingenuity and sustainability

Baldrey says the team’s intention was to find a topic that was interesting but had implications in the developing world. Members began by looking at what materials and testing apparatuses and equipment were readily available. Then they were able to apply the engineering, research and testing principles they’d studied at Lethbridge College.

“We needed to ensure that our topic of choice had relevant supplementary research from which we could build upon or add value.

“The combination of bamboo and concrete is well established in the research pool,” Baldrey says.

“But we found that there was still room for improvement and analysis of suitability from a North American perspective.”

The team explored various combinations of test materials before landing on using synthetic and/or organic polymers as an injectable substance to boost the structural characteristics of bamboo.

Further research is needed to develop the process of refining bamboo for use in concrete, he says, along with “scaling” research to analyze its use in larger load applications.

“Each year we enjoy seeing the different ways our students put their learning into practice through their Capstone projects,” says Bill Smienk, chair of the college’s school of engineering technologies.

“But for our students to go on and get this kind of recognition from our industry was just thrilling. We truly value the partnership we have with ASET, and we appreciate all of those working in engineering fields who support, encourage and recognize outstanding student work.”

The Capstone Awards were established by the professional organization in response to overwhelming member interest in “back-to-school” stories about Capstone projects undertaken by teams of engineering technology students. Entries are received from the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, Red Deer College and the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology as well as Lethbridge College.

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