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Millbury, Sutton BVT students win first place in 2019 Eco-Carpentry Challenge


May 23, 2019

The hard work of 15 Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School (BVT) students who participated in the Furniture Trust 9th annual 2019 Eco-Carpentry Challenge on May 2nd at District Hall in Boston, was recognized with a first place win.

This challenge involved taking a package of used office furniture provided by the Furniture Trust and repurposing it into functional new items. Students were given 8-10 weeks to complete the work at their schools. Mentors met with the students periodically to provide guidance, feedback, and ideas before they presented their submissions in Boston.

Before they even received the materials, students from Construction Technology, Drafting & Design Technology, and Engineering & Robotics came together as a team to brainstorm ideas for their submission, explained Thomas Belland, Vocational Director at BVT. “They were having interesting conversations contemplating how to take the items provided and turn them into something workable and eco-friendly. They really wanted to upcycle, repurpose and come up with a concept for something that would be useful and beneficial to the environment. Through collaboration, they came up with the idea of a hydroponics system and a compost bin.” Hydroponics, by definition, is a method of growing plants in a water-based, nutrient-rich solution.

“We received some interesting materials to work with,” explained Catherine Rozanas, a sophomore from Grafton in Drafting & Design Technology. “An old bookshelf, metal racks, a robot arm, lamp, table legs, filing cabinet, plexiglass, office chair, and carpet tiles to name a few.”

“After reviewing the materials we were given, we started planning out how to make it all work as a hydroponics system and a compost bin with the items that we had.” According to Brooke Hooper, a sophomore from Douglas in Construction Technology, that was probably the hardest part. “Only using the materials given to us meant that we had to get creative with our designs.”

Gabe Asacker from Mendon and Jackson Alves from Milford, both sophomores in Drafting & Design Technology explained how it was important to use a prototype for practice before using the big pieces of furniture. “We actually took apart and deconstructed an office chair into small pieces to find parts that were instrumental in creating our project. There was a lot of trial and error. It was not easy, we must have gone through over 20 different prototypes.”

“We decided that Construction Technology would build the hydroponics system using the filing cabinets,” clarified Christian Fenoff, a senior from Douglas in Construction Technology. “Drafting & Design Technology would handle the water pump and Engineering & Robotics the composting bin. Drafting took the lead on the pump and built it out of parts from the chair and then welded the parts in our Manufacturing Technology shop.”

“Once we had our plans set in stone, we began to research the basics to the system,” explained Jake Randall a sophomore from Upton in Construction Technology. “Throughout the process, we met with drafting to check with their drawings. Once we started to build, the process took roughly 6 shop weeks to complete.” All students agreed that they were able to complete this project and meet their deadlines by working together as a team.

Trin Astrella, a sophomore from Sutton in Engineering & Robotics said, “You really start to appreciate the different uses that things have. This project made me start to look at things differently. I realized that there is a way to save the plant and help people around you by using ingenuity and engineering to come up with something better.”

Aaron King, a senior from Douglas in Construction Technology, who was one of the presenters in Boston said, “Before presenting to the judges, I heard people walk past our project and say ‘these guys made the coolest hydroponics system’ while pointing to us and talking to their friends, it became apparent that we really had something different here.”

“If you asked me what made us win, I would absolutely have to say how well each of us knew the project we were presenting. We extensively researched this project. We knew exactly what we were doing and why. We knew the entire system inside and out because we did all of the work. It was honestly the most fun I’ve ever had public speaking,” explained King. “I learned that the best way to speak about something is to be passionate about it.”

At the showcase event, held at District Hall in Boston, all participating teams’ submissions were judged by a panel of respected members of the construction industry. Each and every submission was impressive and notable in its own right, but it was Valley Tech that took home the $2,000 grand prize for Best in Class, Large Shop for their upcycled creation that spoke to the heart of the competition. Their hard work will certainly be appreciated, as they are planning to donate the hydroponics system to the Three Seasons Restaurant at BVT.

BVT students from Millbury and Sutton who participated in the 2019 Eco-Carpentry Challenge Contest include: construction technology sophomore Johnathan Lukas of Sutton; drafting and design technology sophomore Nicholas Terp of Millbury; and engineering and robotics sophomores Trin Astrella and George Briggs, both of Sutton, who were presenters at the event.

Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School serves the towns of Bellingham, Blackstone, Douglas, Grafton, Hopedale, Mendon, Milford, Millbury, Millville, Northbridge, Sutton, Upton, and Uxbridge.

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