Art Intelligence

MIE Graduate Students’ Cleantech Startup Wins $20,000

MIE Graduate Students’ Cleantech Startup Wins $20,000
Written by Noah Roy

rStream Recycling LLC, a company founded by two mechanical engineering graduate students, has been announced as one of 10 US-based early stage companies selected to participate in VentureWell’s Propel Workshop this week at the Cambridge Innovation Center. The workshop and associated grant aim to grow a group of inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs to solve the world’s biggest challenges and make a lasting impact.

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rStream News Photo Collection

From left to right: Ethan Woko, Ian Godin and Thomas Gable

Co-founders Ian Goodine and Ethan Walko have spent the past two years refining their innovations, which aim to revolutionize sustainable waste management through robotics, artificial intelligence and materials science to shred up 66 million tons of recyclable waste annually in the US.

“We believe that developing the latest technology in self-sorting is the most practical path to ensuring materials reach a sustainable end of life,” says Godin.

But the team says there are drawbacks throughout the collection, contamination and reprocessing of materials for recycling.

“The obvious challenge is that no single thread of research and support can solve these problems on its own,” Wuko says.

The team has put together a range of campus sections to rise to the challenge.

In the College of Engineering, rStream has sponsored six senior coronation teams, including two award winners. rStream originated as a capstone project for pioneering students in 2020 and has continued to work with Jim Lagrant, Professor of Mechanical Engineering, who endorsed their VentureWell scholarship saying “[the team’s] Knowledge of market needs, combined with their technical background, gave them an edge over most other startups that either had a technology looking for a market, or a market looking for a technology, but not both.”

Goodine and Walko are also researchers in the Laboratory for Advanced Polymer Engineering (APEX), where their efforts are focused on exploring revolutionary ways to recycle hard-to-recycle materials. Working with a Ph.D. Students Yijie Zhou and Yurui Liu and Professor Yanfei Xu in collaboration with UMass Dartmouth, the team investigated innovative recycling methods for hard-to-recycle materials.

“Our lab has been inspired by Ian and Ethan’s leadership and commitment to advancing waste management technologies by studying plastic recycling. The students receiving the VentureWell Award are exceptional,” Xu says. “I was introduced to their interest in the recycling and manufacturing challenges of polymers during the 2021 Advanced Polymer Manufacturing cycle,” Xu says. “.

“They are currently collaborating and exploring extensively how to convert waste from single-use plastic food containers into functional, lightweight materials for thermal management applications… Results are pending for publication in 2022,” Chu says.

Last fall, in partnership with UMass Dining Sustainability, the team led waste sorting at the BlueWall Cafe at Lincoln Campus Center to explore how rStream technology could add to the sustainability profile of the best campus waste generator.

In addition, the team engaged faculty and staff at Isenberg’s Berthiaume Center for Entrepreneurship and IALS Venture Development under Director Karen Utgoff to improve their offering and develop their business model.

Through these efforts, rStream Recycling has received several awards in the past two years.

The winning team was the Entrepreneurship Innovation Challenge finals at the Isenberg Center for Entrepreneurship in Spring 2021; Accepted into the Summer 2021 Accelerator of Cleantech Open, the world’s largest clean technology accelerator; He received funding from the Massachusetts Center for Clean Energy after becoming a finalist in the Fall 2021 Lever Inc Sustainability Competition.

“These achievements have been instrumental in helping us advance our approach to waste disposal and recycling at the local, national and international levels,” says Godin. “Our next steps are to publish, obtain a patent, and seek federal funding from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy.”

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Noah Roy

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