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Educate Magazine - 2021-05-01

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Liverpool Life Sciences UTC students are giving them the answers – and who would have thought it would be mealworms? Their project, Plasticvore, is an insectpowered plastic digester that could give every household a solution for single-use plastic packaging that you can’t recycle. Students are designing and building a household digester box, using mealworm larvae to break down the plastics. Research shows that they are capable of eating non-recyclable plastics. The students’ project is tackling a big problem the whole world faces. Using webcams and sensors, the Plasticvore team will monitor and adjust the conditions remotely, so they won’t have to worry about the worms. Plus, the carbon dioxide they produce when digesting could even be pumped to an attached chamber where herbs can use it to grow – good for the planet, and for your plate. Dr John Dyer, the teacher supporting team Plasticvore. said: “The students started planning this project during remote learning and it was so enjoyable to watch their ideas develop, and see the way they organised themselves within the group. “Since returning to the lab it has been a joy to see how they are not waiting to find out whether their application to the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize has been successful, but are instead actively setting up experiments, designing their plastic digester box, and setting up a website to promote their product. “It is a real multidisciplinary project, with some of the students focusing on collecting scientific data to inform the design decisions made by the students who will build the system. The boxes will be monitored by sensors and a Raspberry Pi set up by the student in charge of tech. “The students are developing a range of technical skills including designing and conducting experimental research, programming, technical drawing, the use of CAD software and website design – alongside important soft skills such as leadership, decision making, problem solving and communication. I can’t wait to see the final product.” Winning the Amazon Longitude Explorer Prize would win £20,000 for UTC, and give them expert support in engineering, coding, entrepreneurship and more to help transform their idea into a reality.

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