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Foreign student develops kimchi timer, receives KAIST degree

An industrial design student from Costa Rica who developed a kimchi timer during her time at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology is set to receive her master’s degree on Friday.
Maria Jose Reyes Castro from Costa Rica (KAIST)
Maria Jose Reyes Castro from Costa Rica (KAIST)

Maria Jose Reyes Castro, 25, conducted a study to develop the device, which uses a mobile app and a smart sensor to check the pH level of kimchi as it’s fermenting.

With the app, users input the desired levels of fermentation and salinity. The app then forecasts the date and time when the kimchi can be expected to be ready. Though the timer is optimized for cabbage kimchi, it can be used to check other types of kimchi too.

The kimchi timer developed by Maria Jose Reyes Castro (KAIST)
The kimchi timer developed by Maria Jose Reyes Castro (KAIST)

After coming to South Korea in 2012, Castro met foreign students from other Asian and European nations who complained of difficulty making kimchi. That inspired her to learn about the process by watching recipe videos on YouTube and seeking advice from kimchi experts to gain a better understanding of Korea’s traditional culinary culture.

“Practical studies that can add convenience to daily life is as important as high technologies that changes the world,” Castro said. “Using expert knowledge, I would like to focus on science that makes various products that people can use in daily life.”

Biodesign professor Daniel Saakes from the Netherlands was her academic adviser for the study. In 2017, Saakes invented a device to help users make dumplings in various shapes. Now in his seventh year in Korea, the professor shared his experience of Korean culinary culture when working with Castro.

“Adding to the design value and the practicality of the study, it holds great meaning as a student from Costa Rica conducted a study related to kimchi under the direction of a professor from the Netherlands,” said professor Nam Taek-jin, head of the university’s department of industrial design.

By Im Eun-byel (