CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C- North Island College engineering students have been busy as bees helping a Black Creek business.

According to a press release from the school, students visited Mason Bee Central last March to meet Gordon Cyr, who produces mason bees as pollinators for farmers and gardeners.

Because mason bees are solitary insects, they makes their homes in small holes as opposed to a large hive. Farmers who raise them have to individually clean and sterilize hundreds of grooved, wooden nesting trays.

According to Cyr in the press release, the “painstaking process” can take days, so he asked students to engineer a way to make it faster. The resulting prototype could cut the amount of cleaning time “by about 80 per cent.”

The release also said that students found that the project was a good way to apply their skills and prepare for an engineering career.

“This didn’t even feel like school, really, because you’re building and designing and doing what you’re going to be doing in the future,” Dawson Coates said in the release.

Classmate Gage Vanderlee agreed, adding, “it was nice to work on a real engineering project for a real person.”

In previous years, NIC students in the Introduction to Engineering Design (ENR-110) course have designed solar greenhouses, micro-malting plants and other projects but this is the first year students created a working prototype for a client.

NIC students complete the Engineering Foundations certificate at the Comox Valley campus in one year, before transferring to engineering degrees at UVic and at universities across BC. For more information on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs at NIC, visit www.nic.bc.ca/university-transfer.