Charleroi and Bentworth students kick off SPS project

SPS teams take on waste disposal challenge

Our Student Powered Solutions (SPS) teams from Charleroi and Bentworth high schools kicked off a project with DMI Companies, a Monongahela-based manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) components.

SPS pairs classrooms with business partners to give students Project-Based Learning opportunities and give businesses a fresh set of eyes to examine specific business challenges.

In DMI’s case, the challenge is the disposal of a waste product that is generated from its manufacturing process. The waste is a bulky and expansive polyurethane foam. It overspills the production line as polyurethane sealing rings are mechanically applied to the ends of duct tubes.

DMI is committed to being an environmentally conscious company and has implemented creative solutions to reduce and/or repurpose its waste material, Sustainability Manager Lisa Pavan told the SPS teams during an October tour of the production facility. To avoid landfilling waste, the company sends the polyurethane foam to a waste-to-energy facility in New York which converts solid waste into energy through an incineration process that produces steam and electricity to power the surrounding community.  Because the debris is bulky and light-weight, it makes trucking a costly option, Pavan explained.

She said she thought an SPS project might give DMI a great way to reexamine the problem. “Sometimes when something is in front of you every day, you keep seeing it the same way.”

The SPS teams will be coming at the problem from an outside perspective, Pavan noted. “You’re young, creative, and you’ll be thinking outside the box,” she said

The two SPS teams also will look at the problem from different vantage points. Charleroi students have been assigned to look for opportunities for repurposing the waste material. Bentworth students will examine the manufacturing process to identify possible ways of simply reducing the waste at the source.