Middle Bucks Celebrates Innovation as Engineering Students Invent Hide Tumbler and File Patent

Middle Bucks Institute of Technology (MBIT), a lead­ing career and tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion school in Bucks County, PA, proud­ly announces a ground­break­ing inven­tion by its tal­ent­ed stu­dents from the Engineering-Related Technology pro­gram. In part­ner­ship with the Ornithology Department at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, the stu­dents have suc­cess­ful­ly designed, devel­oped, and patent­ed a col­lapsi­ble hide tumbler.

A hide tum­bler is a device that is used to process bird skins by tum­bling them in saw­dust to soft­en and dry the hides for fur­ther pro­cess­ing. Hide tum­bling is an impor­tant process in pre­serv­ing a wide selec­tion of bird spec­i­mens for research.  The bird col­lec­tion at the Academy is the largest in the west­ern hemi­sphere, con­tain­ing over 200,000 samples.

In the Fall of 2021, MBIT Engineering stu­dents col­lab­o­rat­ed with Dr. Nate Rice, the Ornithology Collection Manager at the Academy, to dis­cuss the con­struc­tion of a motor­ized hide tum­bler. Dr. Rice con­veyed to the stu­dents the lim­its of the avail­able lab space for such a machine as well as the tech­ni­cal require­ments for the device. The stu­dents began to pro­to­type their designs in order to cre­ate a hide tum­bler that met the form fac­tor and spec­i­fi­ca­tions of the Academy. 

The Academy was look­ing for alter­na­tives to installing a larg­er, indus­tri­al tum­bler in order to pre­serve lim­it­ed lab space while still automat­ing what had been a labor-intensive, man­u­al process.

A hide tum­bler is a crit­i­cal tool for prepar­ing and pre­serv­ing bird spec­i­mens at the Academy,” Dr. Rice said. “But our chal­lenge, as is the case with most labs and taxi­dermy shops, is that space is at a pre­mi­um. The stu­dents did a great job of tak­ing the time to learn about the prob­lem and to come up with a viable solu­tion. It was an hon­or to work with the stu­dents and Mr. Ostrow and I’ll look for­ward to more col­lab­o­ra­tion in the future.”

The Engineering stu­dents took this on the design chal­lenge and invent­ed a col­lapsi­ble hide tum­bler that was custom-built to the avail­able space. After many design meet­ings and revi­sions, the stu­dents com­plet­ed a pro­to­type in May of 2022. They brought the machine to the Academy in May 2022 for Dr. Rice to review and critique.

The stu­dents cre­at­ed a machine that is col­lapsi­ble, has very a small foot­print, is sim­ple and safe to oper­ate, and can be pow­ered by a wall out­let, bat­tery, or man­u­al hand crank. By hav­ing var­i­ous options to pow­er the device, it is able to be used both in the lab at the Academy and in the field.

In March 2023 the stu­dents met with MBIT Occupational Advisory Committee (OAC) mem­ber and Intellectual Property Engineer, Dave Shoneman. Mr. Shoneman spoke about the Patent Process and Intellectual prop­er­ty rights. The stu­dents real­ized the unique and inno­v­a­tive nature of their design, and filed for a pro­vi­sion­al patent for the tumbler.

It’s been a great jour­ney for our Engineering stu­dents and a point of pride for the pro­gram. This is a great sto­ry of a high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) pro­gram work­ing in part­ner­ship with such a great sci­ence insti­tu­tion,” said Engineering Related Technology Instructor, Mr. Alan Ostrow

Middle Bucks Institute of Technology was thrilled to part­ner with the Academy of Natural Sciences on this project.  Students in career and tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion thrive when giv­en the oppor­tu­ni­ty to com­plete live work as stu­dents must hone their tech­ni­cal skills and their employ­a­bil­i­ty skills with cus­tomers and clients.  In this case, our Engineering Related Technology stu­dents had to solve two prob­lems, how to auto­mate a process and how to design the automa­tion to fit into a lim­it­ed foot­print.  The result is a hide tum­bler that the Ornithology Department can use to sup­port their incred­i­ble work.  The stu­dents’ vision, with the sup­port of their incred­i­ble teacher Mr. Alan Ostrow, is so unique and inno­v­a­tive it was award­ed a pro­vi­sion­al patent.  Career tech­ni­cal edu­ca­tion is more than just “hands-on” learn­ing, it is real-world learn­ing with authen­tic expe­ri­ences for stu­dents.  I am so proud of these stu­dents and their teacher for their inge­nu­ity, deter­mi­na­tion, and problem-solving abil­i­ty.  Not many high school stu­dents will grad­u­ate with a patent in their name; at MBIT, three stu­dents will have this dis­tinct hon­or,” said Administrative Director of Middle Bucks Institute of Technology, Dr. Mark Covelle

About The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University

The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University is the old­est nat­ur­al his­to­ry muse­um in North America, main­tain­ing a world-class col­lec­tion of more than 19 mil­lion spec­i­mens. Its ornitho­log­i­cal col­lec­tion con­tains over 215,000 study skins and 30,000 tis­sue sam­ples, avail­able to researchers world­wide. Specimens of his­tor­i­cal impor­tance in the col­lec­tion pre­date the found­ing of the Academy in 1812 and include impor­tant ear­ly bird col­lec­tions made by famous col­lec­tors such as Alexander Wilson and John Gould. The col­lec­tion also rep­re­sents diverse species from North America, South America, Asia, Africa, and Australia. The Academy’s ornithol­o­gy depart­ment is active­ly adding spec­i­mens, local­ly and inter­na­tion­al­ly, at a rate of about 1,500 spec­i­mens per year.


Alan Ostrow-Instructor

Merrick Simmons-Student Inventor  Central Bucks South

Cole Kujath-Student Inventor Central Bucks West 

Daniel Kmet-Student Inventor Central Bucks West (2022 Graduate)