Engineering Innovation Podcast and Radio Series

Litter to Lumber

PostedAugust 10, 2014

Download File (mp3)

Anchor Lead: In a summer course focused on Grand Challenges for Engineering, students have created a device that turns litter into lumber.

Randy Atkins: The class had one goal: engineer a product to help with disaster relief in Haiti. But eight students at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology tackled even more. Ashley Bernal, one of their engineering professors, says Haiti also has a big problem with plastic trash, and so they created…

Ashley Bernal: …a huge device that is using sunlight to concentrate it onto this box that contains plastic trash in order to melt it.

Randy Atkins: The gooey plastic is then put into molds shaped like bricks or lumber, and pressure is applied as it cools. Bernal says when hardened, its strength is comparable to wood…and the pieces can be nailed together to build low-cost structures.

Ashley Bernal: I always encourage students to try to pursue something that they’re passionate about and to see them succeed is always, always great.

Randy Atkins: With the National Academy of Engineering, Randy Atkins, WTOP News.

Andchor Tag: The students will now try to find funding to travel to Haiti and put the device to work.