Turning Trash into Treasure

"Veni, vidi, vici." "I came, I saw, I conquered.” This was the mantra for several budding engineers who participated in Lockheed Martin’s “Re-Use Engineering Design Challenge,” recently held at the Missiles and Fire Control (MFC) facility. The student engineering design challenge:  design a unique, usable product made out of household trash and recyclables.

The challenge for Lisbeth House, a Lockheed Martin engineer: inspire biology students to become passionate about engineering, a topic they had never been exposed to. House has a talent and passion for engineering. With a bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and a master’s degree in Environmental Engineering Management, House jumped at the chance to share her extensive knowledge with local Orange County Public Schools (OCPS) Biology teachers to conceive the “Re-use Engineering Design Challenge.”

The Challenge to Design

The schedule was intense. Goals were set high. Ninth, tenth and eleventh grade Biology students representing 18 OCPS high schools were given just two weeks to come up with an idea for a product, design and build it, and provide drawings, research and evidence of using the design engineering cycle. The project required teamwork, organization, communication, problem-solving strategies and effective drafting. Student designs were judged on multiple criteria including uniqueness, creativity, sustainability, marketability and potential environmental impact; the portfolio of drawings, calculations, design cycle evidence and research weighed heavily in the competition.

According to OCPS, this was the first time many of these students were introduced to engineering concepts and used those concepts to produce something. It was also the largest coordinated project this school district has ever run.

Doing More with Less

“The Re-Use Engineering Design Challenge was designed to help students understand that reducing and reusing is better for the environment than recycling. These students will be entering the 21st century workplace where they will be using technologies and skills that have not yet been discovered. They will be facing natural resources challenges, and this project prepares them to ‘do more with less.’ The students created and designed sprinklers, furniture, tote bags and headphones—things they actually use. Best of all, the project showed students that science and engineering are exciting fields,” House said.

The Importance of STEM

OCPS Superintendent Dr. Barbara Jenkins, who was also in attendance, congratulated the students and reinforced the importance of STEM education.


“To have nearly every one of our high schools participating shows the importance the school district is putting on STEM studies because we know the future is bright for careers in science, technology, engineering and math.”

Technical Operations & Applied Research Vice President Jeff Pridmore, joined by Communications Vice President Joy Sabol, announced the overall winning team as well as “Most Innovative,” Most Marketable” and “ Most Environmental Impact” awards. The winning team members and their faculty advisor received iPads.

“Our nation is facing a shortage of skilled STEM professionals. At Lockheed Martin, more than half of our employees are scientists and engineers. The ability to inspire youth to pursue technology and science careers goes to the heart of our ability to innovate and thrive as a company and as a nation,” Pridmore said.  “Through programs such as the STEM Design Challenge, we are working to inspire tomorrow’s workforce today.”

Posted on June 4, 2013

  • Over 4,500 student participants
  • 18 Orange County Public Schools
  • Overall Winner: Recycled Grocery Tote, ninth grader Rebecca Imbornoni, Timber Creek High School

Click to watch how one student turns trash into treasure

Related Links

OCPS Homepage

Lockheed Martin STEM site

Learn more about STEM in our region