Adrienne Horne, Raisa Rubin, and Lawren Gable were in the middle of their Design Clinic final presentation when they suddenly stopped. One of them walked over to a cloth-covered lump on stage and dramatically whipped it off, magician style, to reveal a prototype plastic shredder. The audience laughed at first, but then it sank in that this prototype could have an enormous impact on the roadside trash in Panama, where, aside from being just plain ugly, it collects water and harbors disease-carrying mosquitoes.
The team worked hard from September 2013, when Future Scientist became their client for the year-long program. The young engineers did extensive background research on plastic trash disposal and recycling, developed metrics, and brainstormed designs. Then, in January, they traveled to Panama as part of the Program in Sustainable Design to develop their solution in the field. After hours spent measuring trash heaps and classifying plastics, much to the amusement of the Portobelo community, they returned to Northampton, Massachusetts to develop a solution to the trash problem that would work and work well.
They focused on turning plastic into a vertical gardens, essentially stackable planters. The idea was motivated by the strong agriculture program at the colegio and by a general lack of fresh produce. This way, students can take their lessons home to their families and see that plastic trash can have tangible value. To do this, however, they needed to shred the plastic into small chips that would melt more easily. They built a shredder out of circular saw blades and mounted it on a wooden stand for prototype testing.
The engineers then tested out several ways to turn plastic chips into sheets. They eventually found that baking sheets are particularly useful for molding plastic and are easily available in Panama. In addition they molded specific shapes for tensile and compression tests in order to assess the re-melted plastic's ability to stand up to daily use.
Future Scientist is excited to implement this project on the upcoming Program in Sustainable Design, August 1-12, 2014. We will build a full scale shredder, a basic melting kiln, and test out the production of vertical gardens that Wilfredo Aguilar and other professors can use to teach students about agriculture methods.
To join us, apply to the Program in Sustainable Design!