May 4, 2023
Purdue University helps repurpose plexiglass used during COVID-19 global pandemic
During the COVID-19 global pandemic, the university moved quickly to take proper precautions to help keep the campus community safe. As part of those efforts, the university acquired a large amount of plexiglass to use as protective shields in classrooms, labs and other shared spaces. Purdue has since repurposed all the plexiglass.
The EPICS program, with help from Auxiliary Services, played a key role in the initiative to repurpose plexiglass. The EPICS program involves undergraduates who design, build and deploy real systems to solve engineering-based problems for the local community and education organizations. For the last five years, EPICS has partnered with Oglala Lakota College (OLC) – a tribal college on Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota – on several projects, including a greenhouse on its campus. OLC students and faculty are currently working with EPICS students and faculty to design smaller greenhouses that can be used in homes with passive solar heating to extend the growing season.
That is where William Oakes, EPICS program director, got the idea to repurpose the plexiglass.
“We can send and repurpose this material to South Dakota where OLC students can design and build not only greenhouses but also solar heating systems and storm windows,” Oakes said. “It will advance our partnership with OLC and provide them with the materials they need to enhance their vocational educational program."
EPICS students disassembled the protective shields in order to ship the plexiglass – an effort that took a few months and hundreds of volunteer hours. Other units on campus, including the Roger C. Stewart Leadership & Professional Development and fraternities and sororities, also provided volunteers.
“We knew it was going to be a process, but thanks to volunteers from many parts of campus, we were able to complete this project,” Oakes said. “We are proud of these Boilermakers who are making a difference and helping other students who are working toward similar goals and dreams. We are grateful for the many partners across campus that played a part in this meaningful effort.”
EPICS worked closely with Auxiliary Services to gather equipment to disassemble the plexiglass for shipping. Rob Wynkoop, vice president for Auxiliary Services, said his team was more than willing to help.
“We were fortunate enough to obtain this plexiglass when we needed it, so we were more than happy to help repurpose it,” Wynkoop said. “Auxiliary Services is committed to supporting innovative ideas. This group really took the initiative to make this idea a reality.”
Materials Management and Distribution, also a part of Auxiliary Services, provided valuable assistance to coordinate the shipping. The College of Engineering then provided funding to ship the materials to OLC, which were sent in late March.
Auxiliary Services is part of Administrative Operations. The organization supports the university through safe, reliable and transformative services. Working with the EPICS program to divert the plexiglass and make sure it has a life past its time at Purdue is just one of many ways the organization powers Purdue.