We were excited to welcome the first group from Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) to El Sauce. Mechanical engineering major David Swerzenski is representing his team working on a senior capstone project under the direction of Professor Sarah Brownell. The team’s goal is to explore ways to recycle, process, and transform plastic waste into new products in El Sauce. Throughout the academic year, the team has developed an initial design for a machine that will grind plastic waste like bottles into small pellets. They have also met with representatives from Enlace Project and 4 Walls Project in the US to identify possible products that could be made using recycled plastic in El Sauce. As this team graduates, new teams will continue the project toward the goal of contributing to new economic opportunities and positive environmental impact in El Sauce.
At RIT, Prof. Brownell directs interdisciplinary senior projects focused on social impact. With years of working in water sanitation in Haiti and building an international network, Prof. Brownell helps students design and implement projects in the Rochester area and abroad. These projects prepare students like David to work in diverse settings with experts from a variety of disciplines after graduation.
With his background in community service as an Eagle Scout and promoting STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers to youth in the Rochester area, David is applying his knowledge as an engineer to make a social impact through this project. Though David has made many international connections through his undergraduate work, this is his first experience outside of the US and Canada. David was also excited to be immersed in Spanish, which he chose to study for general education electives at RIT.
David and Prof. Brownell’s weeklong trip was dedicated to understanding appropriate markets and customers for the project. They spent their days visiting local business owners, partners, government officials and the local dump to understand the best way to implement the project in the context of El Sauce. Outside of El Sauce they visited a recycling plant in Managua and took a quick tour of León. David says that one the best parts of the trip was “meeting people in El Sauce and hearing their stories in order to appreciate and understand the people who we are designing for and how we can effectively work with them.”
Stay tuned for more news as the project develops!
Photo 1: David and Prof. Brownell in El Sauce in transit during an afternoon of meetings with local partners
Photo 2: The team's project is targeting several kinds of plastics including the plastic found in soda bottles
Photo 3: David and Prof. Brownell meet with 4 Walls Project site manager, Alberto "Pepe" Hernandez Blanco