Most residents of the Mile Square know Amanda Bananas as the delicious, vegan soft-serve food truck located on the colorful walkway leading up to Pier 13. What we recently learned is that this small local business partnered with a group of innovative Stevens Institute of Technology seniors who offered up their time as part of an extensive senior year project to help the team – and fans of the food truck – have a much easier summer. Read on to learn about what these five students invented for Amanda Bananas owners this past semester.
How the Project Came to Be
^ Ben welding the juicing mechanism
Stevens’ seniors are required to complete a team design project where they apply everything they have learned over the course of their education to a real-world problem. Owners Steve and Amanda DiPasquale had asked an alumni at Stevens if he knew of anyone that could help design a product for their business, which led to five seniors taking on the mission.
Steve and Amanda approached Stevens because of a unique set of problems they faced in their business: it was physically difficult to make their frozen banana product, and the heat of the truck ruined the consistency of the frozen banana product if the machine sat idle for a few minutes. The students were given a full understanding of the problems that the Amanda Bananas team faced, which led to the foundation of their project designing a product that can be regularly used onsite in the food truck.
The Stevens Team
^ A part of the juicing mechanism
The team of Mechanical Engineering students was led by advisor Professor Eric Williams. The members were Sam Abbruzzese, Ben Thomson, Gary Fernicola, Tori Bruce, and Aidan Kates, all of whom are graduating seniors with full-time post-graduation employment lined up.
When asked why this dessert spot was the center of their school project Sam explained, “As someone who actively seeks a healthy lifestyle and alternatives, Amanda Bananas has been the go-to dessert spot for me and I was super excited to get the opportunity to create a solution for them!”
Ben shared that, “All 5 of us chose Amanda Bananas, a local and growing food truck business because it provided the opportunity to design and create a real commercial product that would have a tangible impact for a local thriving business.”
For Tori, the mission was all about supporting local businesses during one of the hardest years Hoboken residents have faced. “Helping a local business seemed more important than ever during the pandemic, and I’ve been there a few times while visiting Pier 13, so I was excited to be able to make an impact in this particular way,” she said.
Over the course of the past school year, the group of five worked countless hours together to create a two-part product that Amanda Bananas can use to make the business more cost-effective and efficient.
First, the team designed and built a cooling system that attaches to the existing juicing machine to keep the product cold, so if there were a few minutes between orders, the frozen product would not degrade due to the heat. Second, the team designed and built a lever mechanism that attaches to the existing juicer that makes it almost effortless to push the frozen banana into the juicer.
^ Testing the mechanism
The students developed many 3D-printed prototypes that allowed them to quickly improve the design and create a product that would be reliable when used in a real-time environment. The team was also able to build a modular cooling system that gets plugged into an outlet and attaches to the juicer. The juicing mechanism is made of food-safe stainless steel and works as an ice cream dispenser to easily push the frozen bananas into the machine.
Amanda was originally not able to dispense their product, but with this new mechanism both, Steve and Amanda are able to with little to no effort at all. The best part is, they can use this invention year-round regardless of weather conditions. “The cooling system will keep the product at the ideal consistency, preventing melting on hot summer days and reducing waste entirely,” Sam summed up.
Check It Out
^ The juicing mechanism in action at Amanda Bananas
Whether you’re looking for a quick snack before or after a beverage at Pier 13 or just swinging by to enjoy a frozen treat with breathtaking views of NYC, you can experience this invention first hand at the Amanda Bananas truck, open daily in Hoboken during Pier season April through October, weather permitting. In addition to the food truck based in Hoboken, the owners will be expanding to NY soon and in the future are looking to expand to South Florida as well.
Check out Amanda Banana’s Instagram page, and stop by to try a popular flavor combination or one of the new featured smoothies!