Illinois’ Best and Brightest Tackle e-Waste (Part 2)

Now I’ll move on to the most exciting part of judging the University of Illinois’ first annual Sustainable e-Waste Design Competition—the extremely talented student teams and their winning project entries.

The competitors were comprised of over 20 interdisciplinary teams of students—encompassing majors in Industrial Design, Engineering, Architecture, Computer Science, Urban and Regional Planning, International Studies as well as a variety of other disciplines.   Teams could choose to compete in one of two categories:  “Artist/Designer” or “Technical/Geek.”   

I was one of the judges for the Technical/Geek category.   The teams were judged on the following criteria: Innovativeness, Green Computing Technology Considerations, Feasibility & Concept Validation, Utilization of Green Assessment Tools, Documentation of Process and Methodology and Presentation. 

Here are some highlights and photos of the winning teams in the “Technical/Geek” Category:

GOLD: Team Number 23:  Project Title: Recycling Kiosk

Currently, the U of I doesn’t have an official recycling program, so this team set up and piloted Recycling Kiosks in one of the campus residence halls.  The very simple concept is that you place your recyclables into the kiosk, log in and earn credit.  

Your accumulated recycle credit points can be redeemed for discounts at various campus locations like the student center, restaurants, and pubs.  And better yet, the Kiosk is made with 100% E-Waste components. 

 SILVER: Team 12: Project Title: E-Waste Hydroponics Farm


These guys built a functioning hydroponic system to grow vegetables.   Their prototype system was completely assembled from E-Waste materials to the extent that the recycled computer monitor acted as the light source for the plants.  One finding I thought was really telling was that an average hydroponic lamp is approximately 600 watts, and using a recycled monitor’s lamp (which is approximately 200 to 300 watts) can save $300 plus a year! 

BRONZE: Team 10: Project Title: Project E3 (E-Filter, E-Frame, E-Page)

Team 10 did an outstanding job in addressing two issues: recycling old electronic parts and positively impacting the problem of pollution and helping the environment.   Their project consisted of 3 modules: “E-Filter” is a really neat air purifying filter which absorbs CO2 from the air by using algae and then generates oxygen!  Their “E-Frame” invention is a large high-res photo/video frame created solely from E-Waste materials.  Finally, “E-Page” is an online community to share E-Waste recycling and reusing ideas with others to promote more effective E-Waste initiatives.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the judging and reviewing of the projects in the “Artist/Designer” category, I did get the chance to see them receive their awards. 

GOLD: Team 2: Project Title: Tourist Kiosk

This project empowers everybody to see the city and become urban explorers – most of the kiosk is made of recycled materials (Panels are made from old computer cases, the monitor is a salvaged CRT monitor, etc.)

SILVER:  Team 13: Project Title: Seedling Keys  

BRONZE: Team 7: Project Title: Penta-Chair     

All in all, the event was an amazing and inspiring opportunity to see what these bright young minds are doing to help address the global e-Waste issue.   I know that it’s made me think a little harder about how all of us will have to do our part to create more sustainable technology solutions and curb e-Waste—and I’m already looking forward to seeing what the next round of students have come up with next year.

-- William Calarese
International PR Director for Unlimited Potential

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