Students Create Recycling Machines

CJ engineering students were given a chance to take the future of recycling into their own hands when they recently worked on a recyclability project.

The assignment had students "working" for a fictional parks department. The "workers" were asked to create a machine that would recognize the difference between the same size objects, but the objects would be made of different materials. The same size object in this scenario was portrayed through marbles.

"They have a lot of similarities but they have to use the differences between the marbles to create a machine which would sort these out," said engineering teacher Eric Grimm.

The assignment was in conjunction with the Project Lead the Way curriculum. Students across the nation who are part of the Project Lead the Way courses were participating in the same challenge.

CJ sophomores and juniors in the class had about 10 periods to work on this project and had the opportunity to work with one partner. Most students used mechanical items like sensors and motors to have their machine sort the marbles, while some used magnets to identify the differences.

"We did a size sorter to separate the big marbles from the small and then used properties, such as different marbles' density and weight, and a magnet to separate them," said Nathaniel Reuter '17 about the machine he and partner Willie Lindsey '17 created.

Grimm said he was impressed with the different strategies students used to develop their machines. "There have been a wide variety of approaches. It very well could have come down to one person has an idea and everyone else tries it. But in this case, everyone has come up with a lot of ideas that I would have never even thought of."

Reuter recognized that it took a lot of patience to make his machine just right. "You have an idea in your head and you think it will all work. But once you start putting it together and making it, it's not as exact and precise as you think it would be."

"Part of this project encourages the students to try something and if they fail, they have the opportunity to improve their design until it works," said Grimm.

Overall, the students said they enjoyed the chance to be creative and have fun with a project like this.

"The beauty of this design project is it allows students to be innovative; it allows them to learn more than I could just teach them by doing it myself," Grimm said.