After hearing about Bay End Farms and the issues that Kofi faces, we decided to focus on harvesting cucumbers. We started our process by looking at precedents. The problems we had in mind to solve were bending down or straining muscles, monotonous motions, and poor storage.
Our first iteration was a concept similar to picking up a ground ball with a men's lacrosse stick. There would a sharp slicer at the end of a cushioned basket or mesh/fabric, attached to a stick. The cucumber would be cut and scooped up, then placed into something to store it. This method solves the issue of having to bend down, the cucumbers getting damaged, and uncomfortable labor. It still cuts, stores, and is safe.
The same goes for our design given a hanging cucumber, which is very similar. The difference is that the basket will have a rim that functions like a claw with sharp ends. It will cut the cucumber with a clamp handle at the end of the stick, the cucumber would fall into the cradle and then be placed into a basket or crate of some sort. The same goals are accomplished.
A spring was added so that the "claw" aspect is naturally open. This way, when the user contracts the blade around the stem or in order to get the cucumber out, it goes back automatically. This concept utilizing the spring is paired with the string for an even more stable outcome. We decided to only have one blade that would cut on a platform of the other piece in the clamp. Lastly, the basket was underneath the blade in order to catch the cucumber and cradle it gently. By only holding one cucumber at a time, it is insured that the crop does not get bruised, squished or damaged.
We discovered that Bay End Farms has cucumbers that lay on the ground. Our original idea for this (rim with a blade on an edge) was good, however, it could be made even better if our invention allowed the user to cut and cradle in one motion. In addition to this, the blade was not in the right position to cut a stem laying flat on the ground. In order to cut and cradle the cucumber, it would have to be done in two steps. Since cucumber stems are not taught and a harvester cannot use force to pull the cucumber, it would have to be some type of scissor mechanism. Hoping to combine the rim with our previous idea, we decided to change the placement of the blade because of danger and potential future basket problems. However, the "one motion dilemma" led us to change the basket and rim to a scooper.
This version of our product has edges that curl up in order to keep the cucumber from falling out. We made the scooper pocket deep with the same intention. Because the design could only consist of one surface, we made the surface curl under forming a circle with the diameter of the rod on one end, and had it get smaller. The string would attach to the blade, run along the scooper, and into this tube. The string eventually would continue into a second rod and all the way to the handle. This way of connecting the rod will prevent the user from having to crouch down. To adapt the blade with our new design, we created a slit at the end of the pocket. This was supposed to hold a stationary blade.
We could tell that we were getting closer to a final design. We needed to change the angle of the scooper/tube because with the angle it had, the farmer would still have to bend down. The slit that we made was not only too big, but we could not figure out a way to carry out that idea in an effective manner. Thus, we had to modify the method of attaching a blade.
A pulley system allows the string to use upward force but be pulled across. We attached a screw to the narrow end of the tube. Here, we put the blade on the end of the scooper. The blade has a tail-like end on the opposite side from where it will slice the stem. This tail has a hole to feed the string through. On top of the tube that encloses the pole, there are triangular supports on either side. Suspended between these, supported by the screws, is the wheel. The string rests on a wheel, goes through a hole in our tube, and reaches a lever near the handle. This pulls the string using the same motion as a hand/arm would. The bolts stabilize the string and the triangular supports allow the wheel to spin. It is important for the wheel to spin so that the string doesn't wear down as much and the device runs more smoothly. If given time, we would find a way to make sure that the string does not wear down.