Students solve tuna research challenge

Pictou Electro Mechanical Technician class creates device for DFO fishery technicians

Students solve tuna research challenge

Students James Sutherland (left) and Brandon Bruhm assemble the stainless steel vice.

“It’s exciting to see other people’s reactions.” ~ James Sutherland

Fast Fact

Like a tree, the otolith contains growth rings that record the age and growth of the fish.

Anna MacDonnell was wrestling with a 400 to 1500lb challenge. The DFO fishery technician was trying to collect tuna samples to determine the health of the population, but the size of the fish was making it a difficult task.

“I’d be exhausted by the end,” says Anna. “The part of the tuna researchers need is the otoliths, which is essentially the ear bone. In order to extract it, I have to open an extremely large head, hold it and run a chain saw down it.”
 
Anna needed something to hold the head in place while she worked. She and her colleagues tried to come up with a solution, but they weren’t having much luck until they spoke with Electro Mechanical Technician instructor Jon Lowthers at Pictou Campus, who knew his students could help.

Building the vice

Second-year student James Sutherland thought it would be simple to come up with a solution. “We just needed to build a vice to hold the head,” he says.
 
“We talked about it for a couple days, drew up the plans and then we realized how huge the vice needed to be,” he says laughing. “My father’s a fishermen and I’ve been on tuna boats before, so I shouldn't have been surprised. It ended up taking months to build.”
 
James and his classmates spent months constructing the six-foot vice, making adjustments as they went. The greatest challenge, he says, was making it mobile enough to transport it to a wharf and using stainless steel.
 
“It’s a metal that you usually only have the opportunity to work with in the food industry, but with the saltwater, it was the only metal we could use that wouldn’t rust.”
 
The class is finalizing the contraption and getting ready to deliver it to Anna.
 
“I love being able to take something like a drawing and make it into something and see where it goes. You have an idea, but it’s always amazing to see how it turns out and then see other people’s reactions,” explains James.
 
“We’re already thrilled with the model they showed us and can’t wait to see the finished product and actually use it,” says Anna. “They have been wonderful and it’s going to make our jobs so much easier.”

28/04/16

“It’s exciting to see other people’s reactions.” ~ James Sutherland

Fast Fact

Like a tree, the otolith contains growth rings that record the age and growth of the fish.

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