Textile Engineering Students Receive Prestigious Odebrecht Award

Monica Golike, Nicole Santos and Richard Figeroa accept the $10,000 check for the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development.

Three textile engineering students were recently awarded 3rd place in the 2012 Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development. Richard Figueroa, Nicole Santos, and Monica Golike's project was based on their class assignment in Dr. Melissa Pasquinelli’s sustainability course from last spring. For that project, they looked at the recyclability of oil contaminated cardboard pizza boxes. Pizza boxes cannot be recycled because the oil cannot be taken out of the cellulose fibers in the box. They looked at three different ways to be able to recycle these boxes in order to keep this product out of our landfills. For their work they received a $10,000 check as well as some other excellent benefits and opportunities.

The competition drew applicants from 173 universities with a total of 422 students wanting the opportunity to win this prestigious award. The award ceremony was on October 16 at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts with only the top three finalists in attendance. A total of $65,000 was awarded to the three award winners. Engineering, architecture, building and construction management and chemistry students and organizations were encouraged to apply for the awards. Rice University and John Hopkins University were the 1st and 2nd place winners.

The Odebrecht Organization is a global leader with diversified businesses and worldwide operations and they believe engineering is a powerful force for positive change. They created the Odebrecht Award for Sustainable Development in 2008 to give students a chance to bring their ideas to the company and the world.

“We felt the issue of not being able to recycle pizza boxes because of the oil contamination was a practical, commercially viable topic that many people may not consider when throwing away a used box and we were hoping to give Odebrecht a project that had potential to be implemented commercially and economically,” said Monica, who graduated in May and now is working for The North Face as a Hardgoods Materials Coordinator.

The students discussed three possible solutions to be able to recycle the boxes: the addition of a solvent to the recycling bath, using a bio-polymer coating on cardboard, or using the contaminated cardboard as a recycled composite material for construction purposes.

Nicole said about the experience, “this project gave us the opportunity to branch out and learn about paper products and the recycling process and we were able to meet with professors and students in the Paper Science department at NC State to gain their guidance. Having expertise at our door step was a huge advantage. Also Dr. Pasquinelli’s encouragement, the education we have received at the College of Textiles and working with friends made the project successful.”

The students decided after the award ceremony that they wanted to take a portion of the money they received to set up a fund for other students to work on sustainability projects. They felt that these types of projects have the potential to make an impact on the world and they wanted to pass on the ability for other students to have the experience that they had.

Dr. Pasquinelli said, "Working with talented students like Nicole, Monica, and Fig is one of my favorite aspects of my job. I challenged the students to be innovative in thinking about sustainability of soft materials, and not surprisingly, they exceeded my expectations. Their efforts really paid off."

To view the video compiled by Odebrecht please visit the link below.

For more information about the award visit www.odebrechtaward.com