Mini-Grant Application for School Year 2021-2022

Submitted by: Todd Thuma Email: Grade Level: 9-12 Subject: Engineering
Co-Applicant: Email: Grade level: Subject:

School: Mulberry High School Type: Public Grade Levels:9-12 County:Polk

Approx. Enrollment: 1250 Number of teachers:65

School Address:

1 Panther Place
Mulberry , Florida 33860

Phone: 863-701-1104 Principal:Michael Young Email:


Project Title: Recycling - Plastic to Product
Project Dates: Started January 24-May 27, 2022 Grade Levels:

Focus Area(s) :Recycling- Manufacturing- Design - Entrepreneurship

The solution to the plastic problem must involve many ideas and paths. We must start today with retraining future generations of decision makers to treat plastic as a commodity. Plastic has value, and it needs to be treated like a reusable resource similar to how steel is treated in the steel industry. Continuing to burry or incinerate plastic not only harms the environment, but wastes a resource that can be reused. This project will provide students with a creative outlet for their design skills while teaching them the value of recycling plastic to generate new products. Engineering students are learning computer aided design. While developing their skills, students will design a part that can be injection molded using equipment obtained through this grant. Students will learn machining skills while converting their design into a two part mold for the injection molding machine. Students will then manufacture the part they designed and machined from recycled plastic they collect and process for the project. Students will work in teams and determine which parts designed by the class will move forward to the manufacturing stage. Following the design, machining, and manufacturing stage, students in teams will then market their product to the student body and at local festivals. Students will engage in the engineering design process at all steps along the way with practical and real world skills earned in the process. Students will also demonstrate how to work in teams with individuals taking on many roles in the process. Students will communicate their progress, successes, and failures using social media.


How is your project innovative?   (25 points)
Our world drowns in plastic, a commodity we simply throw away everyday expecting someone else to take care of it. Plastic recycling is broken, and future solutions to the problem will come from the students we have in our classroom today. This project will purchase the necessary equipment to enable students to manufacture products of their own design from plastic they collect and recycle. This grant will fund the purchase an injection molding machine, and some blank, aluminum blocks, which students will machine into parts they designed with computer-aided software. In this project-based approach, students will experience first-hand the manufacturing process from sourcing material to production. They will take a design of their own and turn it into a viable product that they will attempt to market and sell. All aspects of engineering design are involved from the research phase to the communicate phase. In between, students will design, plan, create, test, and reiterate their way to a finish product. Of course, there will be challenges along the way, and there will be success and failure. However, this project provides them with a guided opportunity to overcome these challenges in a safe learning space. Along the way, students will achieve demonstrable skills that they share with their classmates, the school, community, and social media. Ultimately, these students will have experienced manufacturing, learned important lessons about plastic waste, and achieved a better understanding of real world problems. This project is innovative in that it places students in the middle of dealing with plastics and the real world implications of recycling it into reusable, manufactured products. The project is a hands-on approach to working with ideas and problems in an attempt to better understand the options and potential solutions to a global problem.

How will it fit into your curriculum (include standards)? (10 points)
Students are enrolled in Applied Engineering Technology (AET), a three year program with an option for a fourth year capstone project. Students learn the engineering design process, computer-aided design, and the manufacturing process. Students work on developing computer-aided design skills in Solidworks, and they have the opportunity to earn an industry certificate, the Certified Solidworks Associate, CSWA. The Solidworks program is used world-wide by industry and engineering programs. The AET curriculum also focuses on manufacturing. Students learn mechanical, safety, quality, production and maintenance skills. They learn about mechatronics, pneumatics and hydraulics. With tools like a desktop milling machine and waterjet cutting machine, students will also learn valuable machining skills. Skill development is best accomplished through a project-based, hands-on approach. The “Plastic to Product” program will connect their design skills with actual machining and production. An important aspect of this project will be to put students into teams and manufacturing cells. Students will hold certain positions in the team, and they must work together to further the project to completion. This parallels the working world where engineers must rely on other members of the team for their portion to be completed for the project to advance. This project will expose students to aspects of mechanical, thermal, electrical, and mechatronic systems. The science and math they will undertake expose them to real world problems and solutions used in industry. The tools and skills the learn will be of use to them when seeking employment after graduation. Many of the frameworks and standards outline for AET can be accomplished through this project-based approach.

How will it encourage long-lasting change in your classroom, school or community? (20 points)
That plastic bottle, either PET or HDPE, is a commodity, although we don’t treat it that way yet. The key to solving the plastic problem is changing the nature of plastic from a piece of trash to a valuable object. The goal of this project is to change the way students in this generation see plastic, not as an item to throw away, but as an item to value. Of course, there are real world issues surrounding what can be done with single use plastics. Companies want clean waste. The consumer does not want the inconvenience of having to sort, separate, or deal with plastic separately from the rest of their trash. These two positions are counter to one another. Changing the consumer’s attitude will help more plastic be recycled, reused or developed into new products. In several states, plastic is recycled due to “bottle bills” where the consumer pays, at the point of purchase, a fee for the bottle. The consumer can recover this cost by bringing the bottle back to the point of purchase for a refund. This benefits the downstream recycler who receives “clean” single use plastic unmixed with the other streams of waste. Recyclers pay a premium for recycled PET bottles in these states because it easily remade into new bottles or other products. In those states without “bottle bills,” the PET bottle is generally mixed with other recyclables or worse yet, must be separated from all waste. Giving students the challenge of developing a product from recycled plastic will help them learn about and overcome the problems with plastic waste. Giving student hands on experience with the manufacture of and dealing with plastic will help them think about these issues. The challenges they face in this project and the successes they experience may help them, as a consumer, think differently about single use plastic, and change their attitudes about recycling.

How will technology be utilized?  (20 points)
Students will use computers and computer-aided design software to create a part to be made from plastic. Students will then export their design and machine the part from a two-part aluminum block on a desktop milling machine. Using a plastic shredder, students will shred plastic they collect, sort, and prepare for injection molding. Using an injection molding machine, students will mold their designed and machined part into a finished part. Of course, during the process, students will learn to use measurement tools like micrometers and calipers, maintain a shredder and injection molding machine, obtain resources like plastic and properly classify it for use in the project.

What evidence will you collect to show student gain?   (10 points)
This project-based learning project will involve several structured formative and summative evaluations. These assessments will involve self-assessment, peer assessment, and teacher-directed assessment during the project. Students are working towards a project goal of producing a product from recycled plastic. Each step of the engineering design process is an opportunity for students to self-assess and to be assessed in their progress toward the goal. Each student will keep an engineering notebook and serve a role on a team. Self-reflections, tracking goals, and surveys will help students monitor their progress. The members of the team will also evaluate fellow team members’ progress through critical feedback, clarifying questions, and diagnostic activities. The teacher feedback will come in the form of conferences with individuals and small groups. A final paper and presentation will provide the summative evaluation at project completion. Attitudes and understanding about plastic and recycling are an important goal of this project. Surveys of student’s attitudes and use of plastic will be taken at the start of the project. This will be sampled at points along the project to see if attitudes have changed. Students will be asked to reflect on how their use and treatment of plastic has changed during the project. Ideally, students will “move the needle” on their attitude about recycling and plastic in general, and adopt a more conscientious approach to working with plastic and waste in the future.

How will participants share your project results with the community?  (15 points)
There are several opportunities where students will share their project with the community. Students will report progress using social media including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. Various steps in the process will be recorded and uploaded to YouTube chronicling their challenges and successes. Students will demonstrate their project and results the following year at an engineering exposition and/or an Earth Day Celebration. Students will also present the project at a showcase held at the school inviting community, faculty, staff, and parents. We will also participate in the Precious Plastic Community ( reporting out our activities with respect to recycling, plastic to product production, and what we learn along the way. Of course, we expect a great deal of interest from social media, and students will become ambassadors for reuse of plastic and what can be done with it.


Service/ Item Description Cost
LNS Technologies Model 150A Plastic Injection Molding Machine ( 2200.00
LNS Technologies Large Blank Aluminum Mold $100.00/ea ( 600.00
LNS Technologies Quick Release Toggle Mold Clamp ( 195.00
LNS Technologies Puzzle Piece Mold ( 65.00
LNS Technologies Plastic Pellets $10/ea for 500cc ( 100.00
Total Cost of Project 3160.00
Total Requested from TERRA 2995.00
If matching funds identified list source: 0.00
Donated Goods/Services:Student class fees 165.00 + shipping

I, Todd Thuma, certify that the application is complete and final, AND I verify that I have received permission to apply for these funds from Michael Young,the Principal of Mulberry High School and any other individuals required by my school district.