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Engineering a Better Chicken Coop

February 2014

What came first? The chicken or the portable, self-cleaning chicken coop?

Well, the chicken, of course.

The coop came from a suggestion made by Rev. Robert "Bud" Grant '80, PhD, who is leading the Sustainability Project on campus this year. Luke Greene, an engineering student and theology major, took the idea to his engineering professors.

Then, members of an SAU mechatronics class went to work.

They considered a few self-cleaning concepts, but settled on a large brush, mechanically drawn back and forth across the floor by a winch. Chickens would step out during cleaning, to graze and take advantage of fresh air and sunshine.

In total, two engineering classes and nine students engaged in design, welding, framing, woodworking and millwork. Their coop prototype emerged through good old-fashioned trial and error. Members of the Art Club will paint a mural on one side of the coop this spring.

Jodi Prosise, PhD, an assistant professor of engineering and the mechatronics class instructor, thinks her students might be able to take their $500 coop to the next level-mass production. Prosise couldn't find something similar on the increasingly popular urban chicken-raising market, where the average cost of a plain, backyard, clean-it-yourself coop is $2,000.

Could this coop find a home on the St. Ambrose campus?

"Chickens are not as smelly as people think," said Fr. Grant. "Their manure is a good fertilizer, and the grubs and bugs they eat translates into less chemicals on the lawn.

"In the end,'' he stressed, "this project's number one value is to remind us where our food comes from. Also, it's just a really fun idea."

MORE LIKE THIS:Engineering and Physics, Environmental-Sustainability, Scene

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