Engineering students aim to Alumin8 the world on recycling

Monday, September 11, 2017
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Alumin8 speak with students about their work

While most college students were going to class and working on homework, a group of engineer students were melting cans in their apartment and dreaming of a sustainability movement. They are Alumin8, a startup company founded by University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineering students. They believe that something simple like turning cans into something new can have a profound impact.

Dominic Nguyen, the executive director, came up with the idea for Alumin8 while observing the janitors at his high school. He noticed most of the recycling ended up in the trash. Research informed him that most recycled cans are turned into more cans, which have a lesser chance of getting recycled again. Despite good intentions, the aluminum often still ends up in the landfill.

To combat this, Dominic imagined taking the aluminum cans and turning them into something special. He talked with a group of his fellow students from the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and Alumin8 was born.

“We saw a video on YouTube on how to melt cans and make things from them,” Nguyen said. “Naturally, we went to Home Depot, bought all these different supplies, and started making things in our friend’s apartment.”

Alumin8 talked to UNL Recycling to get bins put out around campus. That’s when the Green Fund stepped in. Alumin8 applied for the Green Fund, which gives money to sustainability projects that will benefit UNL. They first proposed their project in October 2016 and after many revisions, got approved in February. Alumin8 was granted $9,000 which they used to buy higher quality materials and to rent space at Turbine Flats. They also built a shed in the back of Turbine Flats and bought a kiln for the melting process.

The engineers take the cans they collect from campus and local companies and melt them down into pure aluminum forms called ingots. They then design client requests using 3D printing and make molds which they put the melted aluminum into.

Now, Alumin8 is beginning to produce creations from their 3D designs. They’ve gotten other UNL students involved through their RSO on campus where members can learn about their software, collect cans, and volunteer at the People’s City Mission. All of the founding Alumin8 members are seniors, so they’re also looking for new leaders.

“My goal for Alumin8 is to find people who are as excited about it as the founders have been and get them involved,” said Madalyn Somer, the RSO’s president.

Eventually, they’ll open their melting sessions to the public so that more people can learn about what they do. They hope to educate the UNL and Lincoln community so that more people will live sustainably.

“Alumin8 is different from other recycling organizations because it benefits the public by educating about the importance of sustainability.” Nguyen said.

But Nguyen doesn’t want Alumin8 to end in Lincoln. One day, the members think Alumin8 can spread to other universities where students can open up their own chapters. They hope for it to become a sustainability movement: Alumin8-ing the world on recycling.