STARKVILLE, Miss.–A freshman architecture student at Mississippi State impressed judges with her ingenuity and empathy for others during the university’s recent Sustainability Challenge.
Southwire Company, LLC sponsored the competition to help find a way to utilize a foil laminate material that comes in the packaging of raw materials received by the manufacturer. With one facility in Starkville, Southwire is North America’s leading manufacturer of wire and cable used in the distribution and transmission of electricity.
The contest, part of the S3 Innovation Challenge, asked students to find innovative applications for the industrial scrap packaging material. Emily Turner of Starkville found not only a practical use of the foil laminate, but a use that would help shelter the homeless from harsh weather conditions such as rain or cold temperatures.
“The foil laminate from raw material packaging is scrap in need of recycling. It is very high quality, yet challenging to recycle because of the bound layers of aluminum and plastics,” said Amy Vickery, who works with environmental and sustainability management for Southwire. She said Turner’s idea shows great promise.
The daughter of Steve and Jenny Turner is a Luke and Ruth Davis Presidential Scholar. In her first semester of college, she is immersing herself in MSU’s architecture program, enjoying countless hours in the Giles Hall studio where she says students and faculty work constantly in pursuit of the best in designs for a vast variety of projects. The School of Architecture in the College of Art, Architecture and Design features the only architecture program in the state leading to licensure.
“The studio culture and the availability of our professors is a strength of our program,” she said.
Turner also is pursuing a minor in English and said she is interested in participating in additional co-curricular projects.
“There’s usually not a lot of time to do extra things, but I asked my professor to keep an eye out for competitions. I was looking for things that are community-design or service oriented,” Turner said.
Visiting assistant professor Erik Herman encouraged Turner to take part in the Sustainability Challenge, and she immediately began brainstorming applications for the foil laminate.
She handled the material to get ideas, and at one point she wrapped herself in a sheet of the foil laminate. “I realized it was warm, so I did an experiment during a cold snap and I sat outside for two hours with a thermometer. I was wrapped in the material and used Duct tape to close the gaps,” she said.
“That confirmed I could use the material for some kind of shelter,” Turner added.
Because of camping experiences, Turner knew that retaining body heat is important for those sleeping outside, and she said a simple mat can make a big difference. She designed a mat, and added pockets that are sized to hold materials for additional insulation, such as newspapers folded in half.
Turner’s final model is an expanding cylinder-shaped shelter that zips closed and is completely waterproof.
Vickery said Turner’s attention to detail made her presentation stand out.
“I am very impressed by the amount of detailed attention Emily put into the construction of the shelter items as well as her descriptive presentation,” Vickery said, who also explained that Southwire has a broad spectrum of sustainability goals which include “Growing Green” and “Giving Back” among other objectives.
“This project to reuse the scrap foil laminate packaging will contribute to two goals by using this high quality scrap to make shelters for people in need,” Vickery said.
Turner received a $500 award for her work and will continue working with MSU’s Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the College of Business.
“My hope is to continue partnering with Southwire and working with the E-Center to see the product developed and actually put in use for those who need it,” Turner said.
She said the competition was a great experience and she enjoyed learning about product design.
“It’s just really intriguing to see how the skills we’re learning in the classroom, which usually are directed at creating spaces and buildings, can also be used to develop products to improve people’s lives,” Turner said.