The Energy Alliance Group of Michigan (EAG) was the conduit in connecting its client, Canadian-based Ground Effects LLC, with the creative minds of 20 University of Michigan engineering students who explored environmentally-friendly options for two Ground Effects waste issues.
With a facility in Warren, Michigan, Ground Effects customizes new Dodge Ram pickup trucks for area Chrysler dealers. Five teams of four U-M students looked at what Ground Effects might do with extra polyurea spray coating, used to coat the bed liners of new pick-up trucks and with cloth vehicle seating materials which are removed when leather seating is installed.
Scott Ringlein, EAG founder, and Joel Dawson, operations manager for the Chrysler group at Ground Effects LLC, attended presentations this spring given by the students in U-M students enrolled in the Introduction to Engineering class, led by U-M Professor Levi Thompson. Other Michigan companies also presented real-life issues to the students as part of the class project. Students came up with creative solutions, which Dawson and Ringlein will study and consider as Ground Effects moves forward.
“Our company is very much committed to being as environmentally sound as possible and we work very hard to be efficient and to reuse as many materials as possible. It’s very important to us,” Dawson said.
For the extra polyurea spray, one U-M team suggested trucking the waste to a nearby municipal incinerator, which could safely burn the plastic to create energy. Another team thought perhaps the plastic waste could be used as filler in products like asphalt or in playground flooring materials.
Suggestions for the car seat coverings included donating them to local animal shelters, which could repurpose them as pet beds or as insulation in pet houses. Another team thought carpet pad manufacturers or other textile recyclers could use the materials.
The class project is a win-win for everyone involved. “The students get to tackle ‘real-life’ problems that businesses deal with all the time. And I’m always impressed with what they come up with. We get to meet some very smart young people,” said Ringlein, who has been involved with U-M student teams for the last three years.
His company works to reduce costs and improve profits with green technology and services and is proposing some changes for Ground Effects, including a more efficient air compression system, improvements to their facility temperature control and a roof top solar system.
Dawson also spoke highly of the student effort. “Sometimes it takes someone from outside the organization to see solutions that we just don’t see. This was a great experience for us and I’m hoping we’ll be able to implement some of the student suggestions.”
After the presentations, students finalized their reports, Thompson said, and U-M forwarded the reports and all supporting materials to the participating companies for their consideration and possible implementation.
Source: Energy Alliance Group of Michigan