A group of high school students had a challenge on its hands: Invent a device that would provide a technological solution to a real-life problem.
The idea for a project came to the Bridgewater-Raynham Regional High students during an after-school meeting with pre-engineering teacher Dave Patrick, when someone made a cup of coffee with a Keurig brewer and tossed the plastic pod, which holds the filter and grounds, into the trash.
Pictured: Juniors David Wigley (left) and Cameron Peterson work on the computer assisted design for the base of their prototype device.
The most common style of single-serving pod cannot easily be recycled because the filter is affixed to the plastic capsule. The situation leaves users of the popular brewers with a recycling dilemma that the Bridgewater-Raynham students hope to solve.
Pictured: Seniors Alyssa Battles and Andrew Zucker with a K-Cup, millions of which are disposed of every year along with regular trash.
All of the parts of a K-Cup pod can be recycled, but not together, Battles said. “If we can help our environment, that’d be great.’’
A potential solution became their entry into an annual grant competition for high school students run by the Lemelson-MIT Program, which is based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and encourages invention through programming and awards.
Bridgewater-Raynham was one of 15 schools across the country, and the only one in New England, to win an InvenTeam grant for this school year.
The grant of just under $9,200 is allowing the team to develop prototypes and related materials, and the students will be invited to the program’s annual EurekaFest gathering in June at MIT.
Pictured: Patrick (right) held an almost completed prototype he and his students have come up with thus far.
The team is trying to build a device that would separate the parts of a “K-Cup pack’’ — the pods used in a popular model by Keurig — with one twist of a handle. It would be geared for home or workplace use.
Pictured: The incomplete prototype
During a recent team meeting, the students demonstrated their progress. They had the basic structure, made out of plastic using the school’s 3-D printer, and they were working on adding a blade to cut the filter away from the cup.
The device should be quick and easy to use, the students said, because coffee drinkers who reach for a Keurig are looking for convenience. They also want it to be affordable, so cost does not inhibit its adoption.
Pictured: Zucker with a computer assisted design for their prototype
Leigh Estabrooks, invention education officer with the Lemelson-MIT Program, said the judges liked the diagrams of their solution and the evidence of thorough background research.
“Obviously it’s a good problem to solve,’’ she said.
Pictured: Junior Patrick McGrail demoed the prototype for his team members.
At the EurekaFest, the Bridgewater-Raynham team will meet Lemelson-MIT’s collegiate prize winners, interact with professors, and participate in a design challenge in cooperation with the Museum of Science in Boston, Estabrooks said.
“It’s our desire that they will figure out that they can solve really big problems,’’ and continue their studies in college, she said. “These are our problem solvers of tomorrow.’’
Pictured: Junior Michelle Smirnov at the computer looking at the team’s blog page