Three industrial design majors – Ginny Stern ’15, Cary Cook ’16 and senior Eric Antolic – researched and designed an observational beehive that has become a hit for N.C.-based company Bee Downtown.
Owner Leigh Kathryn Bonner needed some revisions to a window-ledge beehive model before she could replicate it and sell to customers, and the Appalachian students stepped up to challenge.
“I was blown away by the talent the students have,” said Bonner, a fourth-generation beekeeper. “The bees love the hive the students designed – they are healthy and are making honey – and people love the design. Beekeepers are in awe of the functionality of it and visitors love how beautiful it is.”
The students’ design was installed summer 2016 in a common area for employees at American Underground in Durham. It’s still there, and Cook is helping Bee Downtown build more hives for other locations.
The students’ task: make a hive that was modular, captivating and functional. It also had to be transportable to a larger hive in a separate location. None of the students had faced a similar design challenge, plus they had to learn about beekeeping.
They produced dozens of sketches. The finished product allowed people to view the bees’ daily activities inside a glass frame. It had a safety valve to keep the bees inside. It included handles that allowed Bonner and her staff to remove the unit from the window and transport it to its secondary location for care and maintenance of the bees.
“Seeing the excitement of Leigh Kathryn’s reaction was great,” said Antolic, who is from Tallahassee, Florida. “I had the personal satisfaction of creating something tangible. I am glad I got involved… it gave me the confidence to design more and difficult projects.”
“Countless times we’ve been tagged in an Instagram post or Twitter post with a photo or video someone took of the hive to show off to their followers,” Bonner said. “The hive is in the kitchen area of a start-up hub and we’ve had multiple people come up to us and tell us eating their lunch next to the bees is their favorite part of their day.”
University Communications’ Kesha Williams, Mary Giunca and Linda Coutant contributed to this report.