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Engineering alum is making a difference


 
Rubbish tool

SUMMARY: Using a data-driven litter collection system, JMU Engineering alum, Felipe Melivilu (’16) is making a difference in San Francisco and around the world.


By: Meghan Long, CISE Writer

San Francisco is a city known for its cable cars, steep hills, culture, and—more recently—piles of trash.

Engineering alumnus Felipe Melivilu ('16) and two friends—Emil Israfil and Elena Guberman—are making a difference with their data-driven litter collection system.

It all started when Guberman took her dog, Larsen, on one of his daily walks. Larsen picked up a littered chicken bone and began to choke. Larsen was fine; however, the incident spurred a discussion among Guberman and her friends about what can be learned and done about litter. They began brainstorming a way to categorize, quantify, and pick up the garbage—and get to the root of the issue.

Approaching the problem differently, Israfil and Guberman developed Rubbish—an app that uses technology to Felipe Meliviluunderstand and track litter trends. Melivilu, the senior mechanical engineer for Rubbish, invented the Rubbish Beam—a device that picks up the litter. The beam obtains a photo and a GPS point each time a piece of litter is picked up. The device builds out a "litter" map and categorizes the trash to identify where trash cans, and more resources, are needed.

As an engineering student, Melivilu was deeply interested in doing hands-on work. "Part of what is great about the JMU Engineering Program is that it covers a variety of different areas," he said. "It wasn't limited to a specific type of engineering. The project-based curriculum helped prepare me for the real world."

The experience Melivilu gained as an engineering student gave him an advantage over others in the field whom, he said, don't have those skills. He can "hop in and do almost anything."

"The engineering program gave me an opportunity to learn, explore and make mistakes," Melivilu said. Just a few years into his professional career, Melivilu said he is ahead of the game as a result of his studies at JMU. 

Felipe Melivilu"Felipe embodies the principles of sustainability that he learned in our curriculum. He's trying to make the environment a better place, which then makes it better in a social or a people context, which also balances with the economic aspect," engineering professor Jacquelyn Nagel said. "Courses he had in circuits and instrumentation, mechatronics, project management and engineering design, as well as fabrication skills, are picked up across the curriculum."

Rubbish works with businesses and residents all over the world to sponsor cleanups—making our world a cleaner and healthier place. You can find Melivilu working on the next generation of Rubbish Beams or livestreaming cleanups on the streets of San Francisco.

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Published: Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Last Updated: Tuesday, November 17, 2020

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