UNBC engineering student designs machine to detect several different airborne toxins


“There’s nothing like it in the industry right now,” says Madeline Clarke.

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At just 18 years old, Madeline Clarke, a student at the University of Northern British Columbia, has already made her mark in the world of engineering.

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The second-year student, originally from Trail, British Columbia, designed and built a battery-powered rotary working atmosphere sampler (WAM) considered the first of its kind in Canada and one of the few in the world, according to UNBC.

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What sets his creation apart from the industry standard is that it means a workplace can take up to 12 air quality samples at a time, testing anything from CO2 welding fumes and more.

The current industry standard for workplace atmosphere sampling is to use individual pumps on employees or a stationary device with a single sampler, Clarke said.

“He can look for dust, heavy metals. You could put in real gas samplers if you wanted, basically anything you want,” she said in an interview on Saturday.

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“There is nothing like this in use in the industry right now. There are only about four or five in the world.

Clarke, who found her way to engineering through her love of math and solving a complex challenge, was hired over the summer to work at the university Northern Analytical Lab Services/ Environmental and Climate Solutions Innovation Hub to work on its design for a project funded in part by WorkSafeBC.

She said the research and design took her just over three months. She had to find a way to spin all 12 samplers evenly at three revolutions per minute. And, there were certainly challenges.

“One of them was the time it took to get things done. I would have something I was working on and then I would have a question for maybe like the manufacturer, but then they take a long time to get back to me. And so I just have to wait for them or if I have to have a piece made,” she said.

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“And make mistakes. If I made a mistake, I paid for it in lost time.

NALS quality assurance manager Ann Duong said Clarke’s machine was something that had truly never been done before, according to a statement released by UNBC.

“There are different concentration gradients that can be missed by a static sampler that will be captured by the rotary samplers on this WAM,” Duong said, adding that the implications could be even greater if the WAM could also be used for sampling. outdoors.

Clarke said WAM will allow companies to collect a lot more data. The lab she works for and WorkSafe will conduct a study, using her WAM, to assess worker exposure to welding fumes. This could lead to determining if better protective equipment is needed.

As of now, Clarke makes no future plans for her career. She just wants to be a regular university student and focus on her schoolwork.

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