Student Designs May Help Developing Nations

The Full Belly Project and Humboldt State University’s Introduction to Design course hosted an open house from 5 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Dec. 16 at HSU. The event marked the public unveiling of seven student team designs that improve and adapt the internationally acclaimed Universal Nut Sheller (UNS) as part of an international service learning partnership.

Professor Lonny Grafman

Students enrolled in Engineering 215, Introduction to Design, were contracted by the non-profit organization The Full Belly Project (FBP) to expand the usefulness and accessibility of the Universal Nut Sheller (UNS) to a broader range of people. Deployed in nearly 20 countries, the UNS shells nuts with increased speed and efficiency, increasing incomes of subsistence farmers in developing countries.

Over the course of the semester students worked extensively to address the specific criteria for Universal Nut Sheller’s next steps. HSU student teams worked on:
1. Reducing the cost and cement content of the UNS for manufacture in West Africa
2. Utilizing waste plastic bags to make the UNS molds in Haiti
3. Adapting a US version of the UNS to serve as a source of funding and outreach for The Full Belly Project.

The Universal Nut Sheller in operation. Photo courtesy of Lonny Grafman

One design team proposed the reuse of waste plastic bags in Haiti by weaving and ironing them to form a mold for the UNS. The product invented by the team is capable of holding casting concrete, yet is made with simple and available tools out of a waste-stream material. Environmental Resources Engineering Professor Lonny Grafman provided design guidelines, feedback and expertise to the engineering students.

“These designs exemplify what students are capable of when engaged in the design process with real clients addressing global challenges,” Grafman said.

One of the HSU design teams reused plastic bags to create a mold for the Universal Nut Sheller. Photo courtesy Lonny Grafman

The mission of the Full Belly Project is to design and distribute income generating agricultural devices to improve life in developing countries. The Executive Director of The Full Belly Project, Jeff Rose, recently visited HSU to provide guidance to the student design teams.

“I was incredibly impressed with the caliber of design work by all the HSU design teams,” Rose said. “I honestly assumed they would merely begin to research possible solutions for us. They surpassed all expectations and have even delivered some impressive prototypes in a very short time.”

The collaboration with HSU Engineering 215 was a pilot effort for The Full Belly Project to determine if their Acceleration of Innovation Program would be feasible. The basic concept of the Acceleration of Innovation Program is to create a web-based forum where designers will be given design challenges and will work together to create simple income generating devices.

The completed projects will be housed at the Full Belly Project’s North Carolina office. For more information, contact Jeff Rose at or Professor Grafman at (707) 826-3649.