Project Lead the Way students scrape through peanut butter woes

Nicholas Herring, 17, an engineering design and development student, shows off his team's peanut butter knife that is designed to work most efficiently in retrieving peanut butter from its container. Blue Ridge Technical School's engineering and biomedical students participated Thursday night in their Lead the Way Showcase for the school. Rich Cooley/DailyRich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL — Megan Mills, Dylan Miller and Nicholas Herring–all seniors in the Project Lead the Way engineering program at Blue Ridge Technical Center–began the semester by brainstorming problems in the world.

“Each one of us came up with 100 problems,” Mills said.

Of those, the group then ranked the problems to determine which one they would solve by the end of the semester. They came up with a particularly vexing issue: getting peanut butter out of a jar.

A normal knife, Herring explained, just doesn’t work.

“It doesn’t spread well, it doesn’t get underneath the rim, it doesn’t get the bottom,” Herring said.

Nick Reith, 17, shows off his team's biomedical project involving the hinge brace for knee injury repair during Blue Ridge Technical School's engineering and biomedical Lead the Way Showcase held Thursday night in Front Royal. Rich Cooley/Daily

By the time the jar begins to become empty, the knife just becomes useless, he said.

Meanwhile, fingers, while cheap and fairly effective at capturing the last remnants of peanut butter in a jar, leave a complete mess.

So over the course of the semester, the engineering team worked on coming up with solutions.

On Thursday, at a final showcase event, the three presented their finished product.

They designed a knife with ridges that could pick up scraps of peanut butter on the top and bottom lips of a jar. The knife had a long, flat edge that could scrape the sides of the jars.

They made the knife itself with stainless steel–not as sturdy as Herring wanted, but not flimsy, either. They created a purple plastic handle using a 3D printer.

Herring demonstrated that the knife was able to pick up almost all of the peanut butter in a nearly empty jar.

“It can get underneath the rim pretty well,” Herring said, showing how one of the ridges was designed to pick up peanut butter near the lid.

But it was a long road to get to that point, the team said. They went through several prototypes that didn’t quite scrape up the peanut butter as effectively as the team wanted.

It was particularly important for the team to design a knife that would work in all jars.

“[Peanut butter jars] all come in different sizes–small, medium and Costco,” Herring said.

The engineering team was one of three groups to present their projects during Thursday’s senior showcase. Two biomedical students, Ciarra Berry and Nick Reith, also presented their research.

For his project, Reith shadowed a patient who was recovering from an ACL —  a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee —  surgery. Reith, who is a baseball catcher, said that he pursued the project to show how effective modern ACL surgeries are.

“I wanted to show and prove that when athletes do tear or injure [the ACL] in any way, that you can come back 100 percent,” Reith said.

Berry, meanwhile, compiled data on chronic care management patients to see how effective their care was.