Dispensing Liquids into a Zero-Waste Future

For team members Rodrigo Guerreiro, James Koconis, and Kaitlyn Roegner figuring out how to dispense liquids for a zero-waste store was just a fraction of what they learned during their first spring semester. According to the National Recycling Coalition, zero-waste is focused on designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials. After hearing from multiple clients about possible projects, the three students instantly gravitated towards the problem of dispensing, weighing, and purchasing liquid for a zero-waste store in Cary, NC. The team, “Dispensing Buddies”, was formed.

Multiple rounds of prototyping proved to be key for the team, including experimenting with gravity, air pressure, and a variety of dispensing systems. “It’s been a very interesting process; we’ve gotten lotion all over the place!” says Kaitlyn. Initial ideation was partially successful, but when the team attempted to dispense lotion, the viscosity of the product proved problematic.  The Dispensing Buddies, had to continue adapting.

James drilling to build a prototype

Rodrigo Guerreiro develops the coding for the dispenser

A breakthrough moment came when Kaitlyn, who’s on the Duke Rowing team, was withdrawing water from the shell of a rowing boat and saw potential in a two-way pump system. Bringing in her personal experience proved to be a turning point for the project. Pictured below, the team stands with its final prototype - a large container with a hand-pump, forceful enough to dispense multiple types of liquids. The final design also included an ultrasonic sensor on top of the container which allowed them to determine the volume of liquid dispensed.

A late stage prototype dispensing liquids

Collaboration, prototyping, and project management are hallmark outcomes of EGR 101: Engineering Design and Communication. Throughout the semester, and as a result of this hands-on project, each team member has made unique contributions to the process and final product. Rodrigo Guerreiro shares, “We got to do parts of the process that we enjoyed, and our project has a whole range of tasks needed. It’s been really fun to develop ourselves, but to help one another as well”.

As the semester comes to a close, and a final product set to be delivered to the client, the students are proud of what they’ve made. But perhaps more importantly, how it’s shaped them as engineers. “I’ve learned how not to get discouraged…and I’ve learned a lot of the technical skills necessary to be an engineer”. “It’s been fun to develop ourselves throughout the project”. James, Kaitlyn, and Rodrigo are looking forward to future engineering design projects.

 Team Dispensing Buddies