Reducing Food Waste, Solving Sponsor Problems Shine at Fall Capstone Expo

More than 100 teams competed at the Fall Capstone Design Expo

A talking trash can stole the show at the Fall 2022 Capstone Design Expo.

Designed to help reduce food waste in university dining halls, the can — with a dash of behavioral psychology and a suite of computer vision and natural language processing — quantifies uneaten food going in the trash, then quizzes people about why. The goal is to collect information that chefs can use to improve what and how much they serve. The bucket also helps students think about the carbon footprint of their trash.

“Food waste is a major overlooked issue in the United States. That's what really motivated us to tackle this problem,” said Ivan Zou, a computer engineering major and member of Team Raccoon Eyes. “Our project is really about reducing waste at the source by improving food quality, helping with portion sizes, and making students more aware of what they're actually throwing away.”

The team’s approach to reducing the estimated 7 billion pounds of food discarded every year on college campuses won the Best Overall Project award Dec. 5 at Capstone Expo. This fall, the showcase of semester-long senior design projects featured 110 teams across seven schools in the Colleges of Engineering, Computing, and Design. They displayed work ranging from Martian missions and hedge trimmers with a removable blade to play structures for kids and an easier-to-use epinephrine injector for allergic reactions.

Read a full wrap-up of the Expo and see the list of winners. 

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