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By David George-Cosh

When Evan Davidge says he’s on the cutting edge of new technology, he’s not kidding.

Davidge, a Ryerson mechanical engineering grad student, is developing a new blade design for an industry leader’s lawnmower system as his thesis project. His results show that he’s on to something. “The idea was to develop a blade that can produce enough airflow and not use too much power,” Davidge explains.

His research began when GP-Turfcare, a company that specializes in lawnmowers and other lawn care devices, called upon Davidge to help improve its main product design. “The company made their prototype and it didn’t work very well,” Davidge says. “They had no idea how to fix it and that’s why they came to Ryerson.”

His results are so promising that the Ontario Centres for Excellence (OCE) invited him to present his efforts at their Discovery 2006 conference held on Feb. 7. Davidge was one of 50 students shortlisted from a group of more than 100 to showcase their research to more than 1,200 industry and academic professionals.

Davidge was the lone Ryerson representative at the competition displaying his thesis, “Investigations of Complex Flow and Vibration in a Novel Multifunctional Lawn Care System.” With funding from GP-Turfcare and OCE, Davidge spent the better part of the past two years hunkered down in Eric Palin Hall, perfecting his research.

After studying his blade design using three-dimensional modelling software, Davidge finally had something that worked. The blades then underwent a series of computerized “extreme conditions,” such as observing different ways air flowed through the design, which allowed him to do some fine tuning for maximum efficiency.

After GP-Turfcare saw his results, they instantly implemented his design recommendations into their product lineup. Since the design is like nothing else on the market, Davidge has helped GP-Turfcare get the leg up on their competition. Bob Ernst, a managing partner at GP-Turfcare, is extremely grateful for the opportunity to have a student like Davidge work with his company’s products.

“We were quite impressed with what he was able to model using rather sophisticated programming that we neither understand, nor could afford,” Ernst says. Although Davidge wasn’t one of the five winners of the student competition, the experience he got from attending the OCE Discovery conference and hobnobbing with professionals was invaluable.

“A major focus of Ontario Centres of Excellence is to help research students like Evan Davidge… prepare for success in their careers,” Mark Romoff, OCE President and CEO says.

“Evan… made the cut, was propelled into the Top-50 abstracts and made the best of his chance to compete at the conference,” adds Marc Nantel, OCE Director of Photonics Education and Training.

“And who knows? Maybe the grass will be greener, thanks to their contribution.”

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