Student’s design could advance Antarctic research work

SINCE THE 18th century, scientists have continued with their exploration of the world’s fifth largest continent, but for hundreds of years, the Antarctic’s extremes has made the process of obtaining and preserving samples for scientific purposes extremely difficult.

Covering 10 per cent of the Earth’s surface, the highest continent in the world is also the largest desert, receiving smaller amounts of rainfall than the Sahara Desert.  It is also the coldest, with temperatures dipping as low as -89.4°C with wind speeds reaching hurricane force at 190mph.

However, such challenging conditions has inspired the work of one final year student from Coventry University studying on the Industrial Product Design degree, and it is hoped that it could be used in future British Antarctic field expeditions.

22-year-old Richard Crowter from Nuneaton has successfully re-designed a storage system aimed at enduring the elements when scientists embark upon prolonged research activities made possible by the development of new technologies.

The idea for his final year design was inspired when on work placement with the international design agency, NPK Design, which is based in Leiden, Holland, and within close proximity of Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam.

Crowter said: “Whilst living in The Netherlands, I was thinking about what to do for my final project and I read an article about a student who had done his degree project in cooperation with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).”

For 60 years, the Cambridge based British Antarctic Survey (BAS) has lead the UK’s national scientific activities in Antarctica environmental research.  During this time, it has shared the continent with scientists from over 30 countries.

Crowter’s decision was influenced not only by the daunting challenge of designing a new storage system, but his interest in the Antarctic and its unique conditions

An initial rendering of Crowter's sledge capsule

An initial rendering of Crowter's sledge capsule.

“It sounded interesting, so when I arrived back in the UK, I contacted them.  They told me about the issues they had with their current logistics and storage system, so I decided to take the project on,” he added.

Crowter’s decision was influenced not only by the daunting challenge of designing a new storage system, but his interest in the Antarctic and its unique conditions.

“This work involves making field trips where camping is required,” Crowter explained.  “To move all the equipment they need for the trip, they tow behind their snowmobiles a sledge with the equipment in storage boxes.

“This system of boxes and the sledge is handmade and based on an old design. My project aims to redesign this system.”

According to the British Antarctica Survey website, the budget allocated for its latest research called ‘Polar Science for Planet Earth’ (PSPE) for this year and next will be £47.1 million.

Of that total, £11.1 million will be spent on research, and £36 million on supporting the science, which includes the costs of running BAS ships, aircraft and research stations.

  • Richard’s concept  for use in Antarctic Field Expeditions will be exhibited at the annual degree show in the Maurice Foss Building, Coventry University between May 30th, and June 4th, from 10am – 5pm.

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