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News Link • Biology, Botany and Zoology

Feeding without the frenzy

• http://www.bio-medicine.org, David Ruth

Two teams of students at Rice University's George R. Brown School of Engineering have designed devices to efficiently, durably, safely and inexpensively meet the feeding needs of these very different residents of the Houston Zoo.

"For the orangutans, we wanted to make it like a puzzle," said Julia Bleck, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering who got involved with the project through the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership. "They have mental skills similar to those of humans and learn things pretty quickly, and know how to be patient. We wanted to keep it interesting for them."

Bleck is the apprentice leader of The Buffoonery, a team name taken from the collective noun used to describe a group of orangutans. Other team members are freshmen Reinaldo Amendola-Mayorga, Jade Juzswik, Jake LaViola and Greta Shwachman.

"The primate people at the zoo wanted something that would give the orangutans not just food but daily mental enrichment," Bleck said.

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