2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition Winners Announced (ISTC Press Release)

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Contact: Joy Scrogum, Co-coordinator, Sustainable Electronics Initiative, ISTC, Champaign IL (217) 333-8948




International Sustainable Electronics Competition Awards 2013 Winners

CHAMPAIGN, IL –  (Dec. 6, 2013) Old smart phones don’t have to be doomed to silence in a drawer or a landfill. According to two winners of the 2013 International Sustainable Electronics Competition the phones can keep track of your cattle, or be tiled together to form large-scale electronic displays.

The winning entries were announced in a ceremony on Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC), a division of the Prairie Research Institute, at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Nine students on four teams from around the world were awarded prizes for their ideas on the beneficial reuse of electronics to prevent e-waste generation.

The Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at ISTC has held the annual competition since 2009 to prompt dialogue about the environmental and social impacts of electronics and to contribute to the body of knowledge that advances the practice of environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal for electronics. The competition is open to college and university students and recent graduates.

The winners in the Product Category (items intended for sale) were:

  • E-waste Meets Farming, smart phones remanufactured as cow collars (Platinum, $3,000) Michael Van Dord, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia;
  • Mion, a multi-purpose dynamo lighting system (Gold, $2,000) Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar from the University of Alberta, Canada;
  • Cellscreen, a large scale display system made from old phone displays (Silver, $1,000) Sam Johnston, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia.

One platinum level ($3,000) winner was named in the Non-product Category (concepts valuable for artistic, educational, policy, or similar content):

  • ENERGENCIA, an educational program based on a children’s game kit encouraging the use of recycled materials and renewable energy concepts by Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla, Mexico.

“The world must find ways to end the tide of e-waste in the environment,” said Craig Boswell, U of I graduate and president of HOBI International, an ISO 14001 certified electronics recycling and asset management company. “This competition, and these brilliant young winners, help us advance the dialog about environmentally responsible product design, manufacture, use, and disposal of electronics,” he added.

Boswell was one of an expert panel of six judges consisting of industry professionals, recycling experts, and the competition founder, William Bullock, professor of Industrial Design, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. The cash prizes were funded by donations from Arrow Electronics, Professional Field Services, and ISTC.

Other jurors were: Jason Linnell, executive director, National Center of Electronics Recycling; Bill Olson, director, Office of Sustainability and Stewardship, Motorola Mobility, LLC; Lynn Rubinstein, executive director, Northeast Recycling Council; and Kyle Wiens, CEO, iFixt and Dozuki.

Joe Verrengia, director of Corporate Social Responsibility for Arrow Electronics, participated in the ceremony, noting “We understand more than ever now that the end of life of all of those electronics is often very short. We need to come up with something better to deal with that. Competitions and incubators can develop those ideas that hopefully help the world, help Arrow, and maybe be a source of really smart new workers in the future.”

The videos of the winning entries are featured on the SEI and the competition web sites, ewaste.illinois.edu, and sustainelectronics.illinois.edu. They will also be available on the SEI You Tube channel, youtube.com/seiatistc.

See below for a more complete description of the winners and their entries.

Product Category

Platinum ($3,000): E-waste Meets Farming. This project tackles e-waste through the reuse of discarded but internally (circuit board and CPU) functioning smart phones in the manufacture of cow collars. A cow collar is a device worn by cattle on dairy farms which can store information about the individual animal wearing it. It can also send that information to a central hub to be backed up, and communicate with machinery on the farm so that the cow is fed correctly and milked for the correct amount of time, etc. Cow collars can warn farmers of sickness or other health concerns for individual animals by monitoring activity and conditions through the inclusion of a GPS and accelerometers. The advantage of reusing smart phones in cow collars is that all the necessary components are assembled in a very compact and highly functional way. The phone has GPS, accelerometers, wireless technology, printed circuit boards, and software compatibility. Furthermore phones damaged beyond the point of being internally functional can also be used for the manufacture of cow collars, by being recycled via normal streams. The resulting materials, such as plastics, can be used in the construction of casing and external collar components. This concept was submitted by an undergraduate in product design engineering, Michael Van Dord, from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

Gold ($2,000): Mion. Mion is a multi-purpose, dynamo-powered bike light for people living in disadvantaged communities. Their lack of an adequate source of lighting makes it difficult to perform evening tasks, including children’s studies, resulting in a significant barrier to human development. Mion is designed with consideration for the people living in these communities and who are lacking traditional furniture. Its organic form provides multiple lighting angles when placed on a flat surface, one focused and one ambient. This allows for optimal lighting, giving the user an option between more open or focused coverage. Mion uses the energy provided by a dynamo: a small motor that generates electricity using the propulsion of a bicycle wheel. The dynamo uses rotating coils of wire and magnetic fields to convert mechanical rotation into a pulsing direct electric current through Michael Faraday’s law of induction. In the long term, a dynamo is both cheaper and more ecological than a battery-powered system. When Mion is clamped onto the bike frame, it uses a direct energy source from the dynamo, charging its reserve AA batteries while also having the ability to provide light during the evening hours. Its detachable clamp allows the user to bring the lighting fixture wherever needed. In addition, the reserve, rechargeable AA batteries, may be removed and used within other products. These batteries become a significant object in themselves as the lack of reliable electricity can lead to other issues with day-to-day activities. Each part of Mion is made from recycled electronic waste. The internal components of the light and dynamo are repurposed parts from old electronics such as desktop computers, cameras, and cell phones (including LEDs, magnets, copper wire, and gears in the dynamo). Both the housing unit for the light and the dynamo casing are made of recycled plastics which can be reclaimed from electronic devices. Mion was submitted by a group of design students (Mikenna Tansley, Jiayi Li, Fren Mah, Russell Davidson, and Kapil Vachhar) from the University of Alberta in Canada.

Silver ($1,000): Cellscreen. The Cellscreen is a large-scale, coarse display intended to function as an advertisement or public display. The Cellscreen itself can be thought of as a tile which forms the base unit from which many different configurations can be made. Each tile is comprised of disused cell phone displays which form the display matrix. The premise is that a run of tiles can be produced from one set of screens at a time due to the large volume of cell phones that are disposed of. For example, there might be a range of tiles comprised entirely of iPhone 3g screens. Grouping screens by type is intended to circumvent any issues that might arise from display quality when mixing and matching screens from different manufactures and for compatibility. Cellscreen tiles comprised from older devices, such as early color screens, might be well suited to large scale advertising whereas those from newer devices with high pixel density and touch functions might be suited to other applications, such as information kiosks. Cellscreen is targeted toward manufacturers and suppliers of cell phones encouraging them to reclaim their obsolete products for reuse in a new product. Cellscreen was submitted by Sam Johnston, an undergraduate in product design from Swinburne University of Technology in Australia.

Non-Product Category

Platinum ($3,000): ENERGENCIA. ENERGENCIA is an educational program based on a  game kit in which children can build their own toys using recyclable materials, reusable electronic devices, and renewable energy concepts to create projects that can move, turn lights on, etc. These projects employ reusable, reclaimed electronic components like small engines supplied in the game kit. The other recyclable materials like cardboard, cans, and plastic bottles can be obtained by children themselves to complete a project. Through the projects made possible by the game kit children learn about alternative energy sources and develop environmental awareness and positive environmental behaviors. The students who submitted this concept developed theories related to the ideal age range of children for which this kit would be effective, and they investigated these ideas through a hands-on workshop for children conducted in cooperation with teachers from schools at the American School of Puebla. This concept was submitted by undergraduates Stephanie Vázquez and Pedro Baños of Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey Campus Puebla in Mexico.

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The Prairie Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is the home of the State Scientific Surveys: Illinois Natural History Survey, Illinois State Archaeological Survey, Illinois State Geological Survey, Illinois State Water Survey, and Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. For over 160 years the Surveys have applied cutting-edge science and expertise to keep Illinois’ economy, environment and people prosperous and secure. www.prairie.illinois.edu 


The Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) was established in 1985 and joined the Prairie Research Institute with the other surveys in 2008.  Its mission is to encourage and assist citizens, businesses, and government agencies to prevent pollution, conserve natural resources, and reduce waste to protect human health and the environment of Illinois and beyond.  www.istc.illinois.edu


Sponsor Spotlight: Arrow Electronics

Arrow Electronics logoThe Sustainable Electronics Initiative (SEI) at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is grateful to the sponsors who make it possible to award cash prizes as part of the International Sustainable Electronics Competition.

Arrow Electronics is one of our Silver level sponsors for the 2013 competition. SEI spoke with Carol Baroudi, Global Sustainability & Compliance for Arrow Electronics, recently about what the company does and their thoughts on sustainable electronics issues.

SEI: Arrow’s corporate web site states that your company “provides specialized services and expertise across the product lifecycle.” Can you explain the services Arrow provides that relate to different stages of electronic product lifecycles, and how this relates to sustainability?

Carol Baroudi: Arrow provides specialized services and expertise throughout the product lifecycle beginning with product design all the way through to a products end of life, and everywhere in between. Throughout the product lifecycle, Arrow takes our role of “guiding innovation forward” seriously.

Starting at the very beginning of product life, Arrow ethically sources electronic components for major manufacturers. We also influence product design and work to improve efficiencies in production and logistics. Our ethical supply due diligence includes reporting to the UN Global Compact and Carbon Disclosure Project as well as adherence to Dodd-Frank for Conflict Mineral reporting.

In the aftermarket space, our Value Recovery group focuses on what might be considered a product’s end of life. We do our best to extend the usable life of electronics through repair and refurbishment, returning them for use as “redeployed,” sold or donated assets. When electronics are no longer serviceable, we harvest usable parts. Before sending non usable assets to be recycled, we de-manufacture them, breaking devices down as closely as possible to commodity materials that are in turn send to specialized downstream partners. We reclaim all materials to the extent possible and return the commodities to the manufacturing stream. No electronics are landfilled. No non-functioning equipment is exported. No child or prison labor is used. No electronics are incinerated except certain media where mandated by security policy. We maintain complete transparency of all materials. Arrow facilities are compliant with both the e-Stewards and R2/Rios standards.

SEI: What is Arrow doing to incorporate sustainability into its own operations?

Carol Baroudi: Arrow has a strong culture of ethical and responsible business practices. Our director of Corporate Social Responsibility oversees all aspects of our corporate responsibility strategy, including sustainability. And, our global green team is actively working to propagate best practices across the corporation in 56 countries.

For example, most of Arrow’s distribution centers have already incorporated low-energy lighting. We aggressively recycle materials that come into our distribution centers and carefully scrutinize our packaging to determine the most sustainable options.

Arrow’s Value Recovery centers maintain the highest environmental and data security standards for the processing of electronics. We repair and refurbish equipment that can be reused, including redeployment, resale or donation. Devices that cannot be repaired are harvested for usable parts before going through our Recycle IT Right® process, which de-manufactures equipment down to as close to commodity material as possible. These separated commodities are sent to certified downstream processors specializing in specific materials such as plastic, leaded glass, copper, etc.

SEI: In your company’s business experiences, have any issues emerged which clearly require further research, education, infrastructure, or policy to improve the sustainability of the end-of-life management of electronics?

Carol Baroudi: Currently, in the U.S. there is no federal regulation regarding the handling of end of life electronics. The inconsistencies between state regulations sometimes result in landfill dumping.  Also, there’s evidence of illegal exporting of electronic waste and abuse of trust from unregulated recyclers that claim to be properly disposing of electronic devices. Europe has more broadly applied e-waste regulations, but these directives can be subject to interpretation. Around the world, emerging economies generally lack appropriate infrastructure for the reclamation of electronics, as well as the appropriate regulations. Overall, we need education, infrastructure and global policy to reverse the expanding tide of electronic waste.

SEI: Is there anything that electronics manufacturers could do to make your job easier? What about legislators?

Carol Baroudi: We encourage manufacturers to design with reuse in mind – using reclaimable materials, ease of separation, and reusable parts. We would welcome guidelines that make electronics easy to repair and repurpose.

SEI: What do you think is an example of an important fact about electronics management and distribution that consumers in general don’t realize?

Carol Baroudi: The biggest gaps lie in education. There is a lack of understanding of why it’s important to handle electronics properly – along with the environmental and data security implications.

SEI: What do you hope participants in the International Sustainable Electronics Competition will take away from the experience of entering the competition?

Carol Baroudi: We hope that tomorrow’s electronics and sustainability innovators will see opportunities to develop more sustainable electronics, from the design cradle to the end-of-life de-manufacturing process.

Thanks, Carol! See http://www.ewaste.illinois.edu/sponsors.cfm for a list of this year’s competition sponsors. Note that logos, links, and descriptions of services provided above are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the competition, the Sustainable Electronics Initiative, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.