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ASU students win $1,000 each for sustainable IKEA truck idea

The main focus behind their concept of the "Bottle Biter" is to reduce plastic waste


ASU students Erika Hannon, Zachary Bursi, and Rebecca Leonard pose with a model of the "Bottle Biter" they designed as part of The Design School’s Interdisciplinary Cluster Competition in Tempe, Arizona, on Wednesday, March 13, 2019.

Four ASU students won $1,000 each for an IKEA recycling truck concept in the 11th Interdisciplinary Cluster Competition for The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts earlier this year. 

The annual competition is put on by The Design School and one of its main focuses is to expose students to collaboration across different disciplines. The competition is required for junior design students, and is also open for honors students as a three credit course, and provides an opportunity for students to solve a real-world problem. 

This year's winning idea, dubbed the Bottle Biter, was designed by Erika Hannon, Zachary Bursi, Courtney Kane, and Rebecca Leonard. The Bottle Biter is a truck that would circulate around ASU and allow people to dispose their recyclables into the truck. The truck would then grind the plastic up and make it into filament, creating the possibility for it to be transformed into different items.

Wil Heywood, assistant director in the Design School within the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts and faculty member within Barrett, the Honors College, said the competition is for all junior studio majors and there would be multiple disciplines in each team. 

Each team was given 10 days to come up with a concept for the competition, illustrate the idea and create a model and video. 

Hannon, a junior majoring in architecture, said that the main idea behind her team's concept was to encourage people to recycle, adding that her team came up with the idea by “sitting down and spitting out any and every idea we had and just let it evolve on its own.”

She said that the group talked about topics that were most important to them and the environment came up most frequently. 

Hannon said that their idea also included an app where users can create accounts and get credits for all the plastic donated and then use the credits to either buy products or cash the credits out. 

Bursi, a junior majoring in architecture, said the group wasn’t focused on generating a profit for the company, but rather focused on an idea that could potentially improve the environment by giving a people a place to dispose of their plastic. 

“So we thought reducing the plastic would be a huge component, and then going to the hotspots like dorms, football games, stuff like that, that's where people would be able to drop off their plastics,” he said.

Heywood said that the competition is important because it teaches students to be collaborative with people concentrating in specialities other than their own. 

“It gives the student an opportunity to work with other disciplines and also to learn some teaming skills, because when they get out into the world of work, most of the projects are team projects,” Heywood said.

Bursi said that at first, the group wasn’t all that excited about the project because they wanted to focus on their own studios.

“Once we started going through the process, we worked really well together, and we liked what we were making. And then it just became a fun project, and then winning it was the icing on the cake,” he said.

Hannon said that she found the news that they had won “pretty surprising."

“It kind of felt like a long shot because when you first sit in the room, there's so many people in there and there were so many teams that it was just surprising, but pleasantly surprising," she said. "It definitely made it feel like it was worth all the effort we put into it.”

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