Rensselaer Research Wins Blue Ribbon at Annual New York Maker Faire

TROY, N.Y. —Students and faculty from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) were recently awarded an Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon at the New York Maker Faire. Their research exhibit, a collaborative project between the university’s schools of Engineering and Architecture, focused on turning empty water bottles into shelters for disaster relief.

The event, put on annually by Make: magazine, took place at the New York Hall of Science in Queens, and featured more than 600 projects with 90,000 makers attending from all over the world.

The Rensselaer and Friendship Products exhibit was titled “The Friendship Bottle: What If a Bottle Had a Long and Important Life After You Drink The Contents?” It was on display in a new zone of the Maker Faire called “Tiny Homes Village,” which focused specifically on innovations in architecture and design.

“Friendship Products is excited about the research Rensselaer is doing to discover many different practical uses for Friendship Bottles, expanding the opportunities for making a positive environmental and humanitarian impact across the world,” said Tim Carlson, managing partner at Friendship Products.

“We owe a huge thank you to RPI alumnus Todd Thomas, who has been a driving force behind the establishment of a new zone at the Maker Faire that was dedicated to exhibiting the next generation of architecture,” said Rhett Russo, assistant professor and undergraduate chair of the school of Architecture. “He was delighted that Rensselaer students and faculty could share their contributions with the public.”

The ribbon-winning exhibit featured a short film by Wayne and Kristin Westbook that gave insight into the design process and the role that Rensselaer students and faculty played in getting Friendship Products in the public eye. The exhibit also gave the public hands-on experience to build with the bottles and showcased Second Lives / After Bottles, a pavilion made entirely of bottles that was designed by architecture students and Lydia Kallipoliti, assistant professor in the school of Architecture.

Also on display was a beam and column prototype composed entirely of water bottles that is currently being tested for its structural capacity by Mohammed Alnaggar, assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Rensselaer.

The Bottle Transitional Shelter (BoTS) testbed that is being used to test the environmental performance of the bottles as a building system was also on site at the event. It was developed by the Rensselaer Center for Architecture and Science and Ecology, where Josh Draper, a lecturer in the school of Architecture, led the project.

“We are so pleased that we were able to attend the New York Maker Faire and share our research with some of the world’s greatest inventors, architects, and designers,” said Russo, who led the exhibit team. “We are honored that our exhibit was chosen to receive an Editor’s Choice Blue Ribbon and look forward to continuing to share the implications of our research with the world.”

Collaborative research projects like this are an exciting representation of The New Polytechnic, an emerging paradigm for teaching, learning, and research at Rensselaer. The foundation for this vision is the recognition that global challenges and opportunities are so great they cannot be adequately addressed by even the most talented person working alone. The New Polytechnic is transformative in the global impact of research, in its innovative pedagogy, and in the lives of students at Rensselaer.