Redefining Waste: Upcycled Projects Promote Learning - Humboldt State Now

Redefining Waste: Upcycled Projects Promote Learning

Professor Lonny Grafman's _Introduction to Design_ class is a unique combination of engineering, sustainability and community service.

The class gives students hands-on experience designing and constructing engineering projects for a real client. The one caveat: their creations must be made of sustainable material.


This year, students in Engineering 215 partnered with Zane Middle School in Eureka to create projects that used upcycled, or reused everyday waste material. Their creations included a human powered Bernoulli bike blower, a wall caddy made of upcycled cloth and street signs and a portable disc golf station made of an old drum and skateboards.

“The best part was finding creative methods to build our project,” says Cavanaugh Carter (’16, Engineering), who’s group used furniture and an old tea pot to create several birdhouses on Zane’s campus.

The refuges are designed to attract birds from the Pacific Flyaway—a major North to South migratory path.

“It’s pretty cool that birds will be coming closer to the school now, furthering the students’ educational opportunities,” said Jennie Warmack (’16, Oceanography), who was also in the group.


In addition to using sustainable materials, each project is designed to engage students at Zane, a magnet school focusing on science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics. The projects are interactive and encourage the students to engage and learn.

Jax Gill’s (Environmental Resources Engineering) group built an edible landscape, where they planted edible berries, flowers and herbs. By next spring, the area will be in full bloom.

“We’re helping students and community members identify native plants and also introducing them to the idea that with an edible landscape, you can eat free food year round,” Gill said.

For more on the student projects and the Zane partnership, visit