Helping the Helpers: Student project improves efficiency at South Plains Food Bank

Local News

(Photo provided by the South Plains Food Bank)

LUBBOCK, Texas (NEWS RELEASE) – The following is a news release from Texas Tech University:

Helping those in need can be very fulfilling. Many people choose to either give their time, talent or money to make an impact on their communities. One group of mechanical engineering students from Texas Tech University helped the Lubbock and surrounding communities by creating a motorized conveyor belt for the South Plains Food Bank, which increased efficiency and decreased the workload of the staff and volunteers.

It all began in August 2018 when George Gray, a mechanical engineering instructor at Texas Tech, volunteered at the South Plains Food Bank.

“I had been working at the South Plains Food Bank in the dry food box area, and we had this very basic type of conveyor that looked home built and was fairly long,” Gray said. “There were some problems with it. It caused a little bit of a delay in some of the boxes and getting them packed and onto the pallets. Carts would run in to it. Some of the actual conveyor parts didn’t run; they weren’t rotational. It just lacked a lot of efficiency.

“Knowing that, and knowing I teach a project-oriented design class where we put students on projects, I thought this would be a good combination to help the food bank, help our students and benefit both entities.”

With his idea developed, Gray approached David Weaver, the CEO of the South Plains Food Bank, with his suggestion.

“George thought he could come up with a better idea, and he talked to me about letting some of his mechanical engineering students take this on as a project,” Weaver said. “I thought that was a great idea.”

Gray enlisted students Jake Pullara, Jonathan Smith, Armando Vigil, Kinzie Juergins, Benjamin Godinez, Agha Ali and Zane Andrews – who all graduated this May – to tackle the conveyor belt project.

“The project was so big, we split into three groups: frame, drive and electrical,” Pullara said. “Jonathan and I were responsible for the frame design, manufacturing and assembly. The entire team, as we were designing the project, we had to think about how it is going to be made and how are we going to put it together. Not a lot of graduating engineering students get that kind of experience.”

After two semesters’ worth of work, the new, motorized conveyor belt system for the food bank was completed. The days of struggling to push boxes on an old roller system were officially gone.

“At the touch of a button, they can actually start and stop this conveyor to where it’s more efficient, and it’s not something they have to physically try to stop like we did, or physically try to push,” Gray said.

The connection Texas Tech has built with the South Plains Food Bank has been longstanding, and Weaver hopes that doesn’t change.

“I’m really appreciative of the relationship we have with Texas Tech,” Weaver said. “Texas Tech has always been a part of our life here at the food bank. We have student groups that come out and volunteer on a regular basis on Saturdays. We have student groups out at the farm and at the orchard. We couldn’t do it if we didn’t have those great volunteers.

“The projects we have with Texas Tech really step it up a notch and help us in a lot of ways and, hopefully, it’s a good experience for the students as well.”

To read the story in its entirety, and to see a short video, visit the Texas Tech Today website.

George Gray, instructor, Department of Mechanical Engineering, Edward E. Whitacre Jr. College of Engineering, Texas Tech University, (806) 834-2082 or or Vanessa Morelion, communications manager, South Plains Food Bank, (806) 518-8002 or

(News release from Texas Tech University)

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