R10 coffee and breakfast cereal: new vending ventures by UCT students

01 April 2015 | Story by Newsroom

Introduction of UniCafé

Mechanical Engineering students, Jason Hardy and James Shin, developed a new type of vending machine on campus, UniCafé, offering a variety of coffee and hot–chocolate to students. The students created the machines themselves, sourcing parts from South Korea. Currently their machines are found in Menzies, Computer Science, NSLT and Kramer Law buildings and are available 24/7.

Hardy states that their main aim in starting this business was to provide "a big cup of coffee, with freshly ground coffee beans" for an affordable price. Overall students have reacted positively to the introduction of the new machines, commenting that they like the variety and quality of the coffee. UCT radio tweeted a picture of the machine, to which @timadafish replied that "life is worth living" due to the new coffee machine.

According to Hardy and Shin, their business requires a great deal of time and effort. "If we're not sleeping we're working," commented Shin. Shin is currently taking a gap year because of the demands of this business while Hardy is still studying. However, both students stated that it is worth the hard work and is rewarding to give birth to a new initiative.

The coffee machines have internet connection which is linked to Shin and Hardy's devices so that they can monitor supplies, cash and also receive quick alerts on any problems with the machine.

Hardy and Shin mentioned that they have many plans for their business and intend to make certain upgrades to the vending machines. These plans include expanding their machines to other areas of UCT – they are looking at installing machines on Medical Campus.

Another aim is to introduce a convenient student card payment system. This would work similar to printing credits, and students would be able to load money onto the card for future usage. There are also plans to launch an EFT option.

Additionally, Shin and Hardy intend to introduce advertising screens in order to generate more money, and consequently subsidise coffee costs.

They are looking at the possibility of setting up their own roastery, since if they make their own beans they can both maintain their standard and keep prices low. In the future, the two entrepreneurs aim to maximize on the capacity of the machine so it can produce a lot more coffee for a lot more people.

Cereal Machine Initiative

Another student who introduced their own vending machine idea at UCT, after consultation with the UniCafé designers, is Daniel Czech. Czech is currently studying a Master's Degree in Electrical Engineering. His initiative started with the idea of introducing an interesting and different type of vending machine – one with cereal for breakfast–on–the–go. This machine is found on level three of Menzies Building.

The vending machine offers three different types of cereal to cater for a large group of students. These cereals include one sugary (Cocoa Pops), one healthy (muesli) and one cheaper option (cornflakes). He plans on further expanding the cereal options based on what most people prefer.

Czech said that the designing process was more challenging than he had anticipated, but with a bit of creativity, experimentation and some consultation he was able to create his own machine. After the initial stages, his initiative became a process of modifying and specialising the machine to specifically dispense cereal and milk sachets. Czech made the changes to the machine based on what seemed to work for the students, saying that he "would just sit and watch people buying to see what goes wrong." It is through this process that Czech was able to make the necessary adjustments.

One improvement he introduced was installing a sensor to prevent the machine from dispensing cereal regardless of whether the user remembered to place their cup or not. He also has plans to make the machines smaller and more attractive in the future.

Students who have discovered the machine commented that it was "interesting, different and convenient" and praised the fact that they can have easy access to breakfast on–the–go.

Story by Tinotenda Masando. Image by Amina Ebrahim. This story first appeared in the Varsity newspaper on 24 March 2015.

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