Students’ initiative to help build schools

A female student wears safety goggles and works on a machine

Making a Difference

Madison Gegeckas '17 engineers a shaft so that it will work on the machine prototype that will assist workers in Guatemala who use bottles filled with shredded trash to make eco-bricks to build schools and homes.

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hen mechanical engineering student Chris Monferrato heard that a Quinnipiac alumnus needed help building schools for poor communities in Central America, he knew he had found the perfect senior capstone project.

The alumnus — Frank Sherrill ’07 — a political science graduate living in Guatemala, has been working with others to build “bottle schools,” structures that replace traditional cinder blocks with plastic bottles that community members stuff with non-organic garbage. They are called “eco bricks.” 

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A male student rearranges plastic bottles lined up in a machine

Hands-on Learning

Christopher Monferrato '17 works on the device in the Center for Communications and Engineering on our Mount Carmel Campus.

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The foundations, columns and beams for the buildings are made of reinforced concrete; eco bricks are attached to a metal frame and anchored with chicken wire to fill the space between structural elements. The purpose is twofold: the schools are cheaper to construct than their traditional counterparts, and Guatemala’s notorious garbage problem is addressed in the process. But one issue Sherrill has encountered is the amount of time it takes workers to fill the bottles.

Monferrato and fellow seniors Madison Gegeckas and Rachel Davis thought they could help. 

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“The current fill process involves stuffing the trash in the bottles manually. It takes one person 30 minutes to fill a bottle,” said Monferrato. “We set out to build a machine that could stuff multiple bottles at a time. It needed to be time-efficient, durable and affordable.”