MTC Apprentices Reap Two Accolades For Pet Food Invention

A team of four engineering apprentices being trained at the MTC have received two prestigious accolades for their project to design an automatic chilled pet food dispenser that can handle wet food.

Their PetTech project has received a Highly Commended prize and the Peer Award in the annual Apprentice Automation Challenge run by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

The team of first year apprentices Lucy Doe, Beth MacDonald, Dan Cook and Ben Rathbone have designed, tested and manufactured a prototype pet food dispenser, and compiled a business case for it.

Apprentice Lucy Doe said that there were dry food dispensers on the market, but manufacturers shied away from wet pet food dispensers because of design, hygiene and cost issues.

“We have developed a chilled, automated pet food dispenser that specialises in dispensing wet food, which fills a gap in the market. We wanted to demonstrate that a wet food feeder was possible and beneficial for pet owners. In particular it would be suitable for elderly or infirm pet owners who may struggle with standard wet food containers,” she said.

The apprentices are all studying for their engineering qualifications at the MTC’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Centre in Coventry while working for employers across a wide range of manufacturing sectors. Lucy works for CoMech Metrology, Beth for Expert Engineering, Dan for Meggitt and Ben for Fire Angel.

MTC Training’s managing director, David Hughes MBE, said: “Our learners spend their first year training off-the-job in our training centres. This intensive start gives them a great foundation of professional skills, knowledge and behaviours that empower them to work independently and add real value to their employers from the moment they arrive back on site. We’re very proud of Team PetTech’s achievement, which really demonstrates how mature and capable our learners are just one year into their programme.”

The IMechE Apprentice Automation Challenge tasks teams of apprentices to independently design, develop and build a fully working system that automates and solves a real-world problem in the house or garden. Teams must also produce a detailed engineering and business report as well as demonstrate the results of their project.

Raymond Hodgkinson, IMechE board member and challenge judge said the teams had faced the restrictions of the pandemic but had overcome difficult circumstances.

“I was really impressed at the way the apprentices had learned to work together in a team, to meet deadlines in difficult times, and produce great ideas.”