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EcoForged – Reclaimed Plastic Extrusion for Sustainable Building Materials

DRACO’s EcoForged Project Receives a Phase I Environmental Protection Agency – People, Planet, Prosperity Student Design Competition Award for $25,000

Project Deliverables and Outcomes

Project Management

DRACO has created a coalition of academic institutions and industry partners to fulfill the goals of this multi-year, state-wide initiative known as EcoForged. This multi-year project involves multiple South Dakota institutes of higher education, industry partners who share our vision, and highly motivated students looking to apply the skills towards real-world solutions.

Professional Development

DRACO is working with faculty advisors at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (SDSM&T) and the University of South Dakota (USD), to build real-world skills for undergraduate students through the EcoForged Project.

Proposal Writing

DRACO wrote a $25,000 2020-2021 EPA P3 Student Design Competition Proposal to bring an original idea from DRACO co-founders Eric Sandhurst and Jevin Meyerink to life. The goal of this P3 project involves developing a mobile extrusion system capable of repurposing large volumes of reclaimed plastics into on-site building materials.

The EcoForged Project aims to address a critical step in reclamation of these plastics by exploring a water-free cleaning system to eliminate toxic solvents utilized in current cleaning technologies, as well as developing an independent plastic-extrusion system (EcoForged) to produce interlocking plastic beams (EcoBeam) from locally collected waste for isolated building applications (i.e. disaster relief and isolated communities).

Stress analysis of EcoBeam under loading

Sustainability is inherently interdisciplinary and solutions-oriented. Addressing this challenge must include considerations from environmental, social, economic, and engineering mindsets, which is why the EcoForged Project exists as a state-wide collaborative initiative. Student teams from South Dakota School of Mines & Technology and University of South Dakota are guilded by a board of industry and academic advisors donating their time and expertise to direct this project towards success. Equally important as the environmental impact, this project provides valuable experience to participating students, engaging their abilities to confront sustainability challenges and use engineering to effect positive societal and environmental change through innovation.

EcoForge in Shipping State

“Being able to collaborate with DRACO has allowed our sustainability undergraduate students to engage in community-based learning and to collaborate with students from other universities to help develop products that address sustainability challenges.  DRACO made the collaborations easy and fruitful – from my perspective and from the perspective of the students.”

– Meghann Jarchow, Chair of USD Sustainability and Environment

One USD student wrote, “Great course that successfully gives students a taste of what opportunities would look like in real-life job scenarios.  I enjoyed being part of a team and working towards an interesting and beneficial goal.”

Project Team

2018-2019 SDSM&T EcoForged Senior Design Team led by Jason Ash, Lowell Kolb, Butch Skillman

Seth Vidrio – SDSM&T Student Lead – Mechanical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Brandon Allwin – Mechanical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Brooke Bialas – Mechanical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Christopher Fitzgerald – Mechanical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Angus Frisch – Computer Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Jacob Huber – Mechanical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Terrence Kuca – Mechanical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Matthew Miller – Mechanical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Alex Schimbeno – Electrical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

Theodore Seeley – Electrical Engineer SDSM&T ’19

2019 USD Sustainability Capstone Student Team led by Meghann Jarchow

Rachel Abele

Callie Meyer

Haley Andrews

Tanner Hall

Cody Senn

Daniel Whirlwind Soldier

Mitchell Riner

Christopher Gaher

Jacob Zea

Jacob Selgestad

Chase Stehly

2020 USD Sustainability Capstone Student Team led by Brennan Jordan

Amber Ellison

Faith Ireland

Kierra Determan

Jesse Weber

South Dakota School of Mines Project Lead – Jevin Meyerink

University of South Dakota Project Lead – Eric Sandhurst