Ellsworth teams up with students to create wind-proof trash can device

"Gust" will keep your trash can lid from blowing open even when it gets knocked over by the wind.


Gust 6ELLSWORTH AFB, S.D. – Are you tired of chasing down your trash can every time the wind blows your trash can over and everything inside gets tossed all over your yard? Well — Ellsworth Air Force Base and some students in San Diego are working together to find a solution to that very problem.

It all started about a year ago with an organization called National Security Innovation Network or N.S.I.N. It’s established through the Department of Defense and it works with universities to help military bases solve certain problems that they’re dealing with. For Ellsworth, that’s the wind. So the base reached out and submitted a request to get some help with trash cans tipping over, popping open and trash blowing everywhere.

“We were fortunate enough to have San Diego State University pick us up and work this project. So they assign a team. We have four seniors who are in the engineering department who have been working this project in this full school year. So the first half of the year they worked on design. They did a lot of preliminary testing. They kicked over a lot of trash cans and played around to make sure that the holder stays on like it s supposed to. And then one of the students who lives in Minneapolis or Minnesota. He came out with his dad and we did a test the beginning of January where we had a truck for the first time, pick up the can, dump it and it worked,” said Lorie Vega, Deputy Director of the 28th Mission Support Group at Ellsworth AFB.

The prototype that the students came up with to the keep the trash can lid from opening has been named “Gust”.  The whole device is 3D printed and will keep a trash can lid closed as long as it is not tipped completely upside down. That way the only time the device will release is when the garbage truck picks up the can to dump it.

“It’s a gravity driven system inside. So there s something inside that when it s inverted, switches so that the lid will disengage and it will come open but as soon as the lid goes back down, it catches again. So it doesn’t require a resident to take an action. It will automatically lock closed as soon as the lid is down,” said Vega.

The students are working to finalize the prototype so that they can make a finished product that can be patented and eventually produced then sold to consumers. Vega adds that gust will help with so many issues besides just losing your trash on windy days and that “It’s a hassle for the people who own the trash can, it blows trash everywhere which is unsightly. It clogs drainage ditches and for our base in particular, trash is dangerous for our jets. So we want to make sure that we keep as much trash in the cans as we possibly can. So this meant to solve some of that problem.”

The hope is that gust will be able to be distributed to residents living on base at Ellswth as early as this summer.

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