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Rep. Rick Larsen talks with composite recycling team at Edmonds CC


As the manufacturing industry’s demand for carbon fiber and other composite materials increases, industry leaders are looking for ways to reduce the amount of waste, or scrap material, being stored indefinitely or going to landfills.

“Yankee Stadium could be filled up once a year with composite waste alone,” said Kristin Hardin, a University of Alabama at Birmingham graduate student who’s studying materials engineering. “That statistic is from a 2012 Green Composites Workshop presentation, and it is an ever-increasing amount as composite technology continues to advance.”

Rep. Rick Larsen visit
(from left to right) Dr. Brian Pillay, James Russell, Kristin Hardin, Washington state Rep. Rick Larsen, Mel Cossette, Kim Davis, Robin Ballard, Ann Avary, and Darren Greeno met at Edmonds CC in August to discuss a National Science Foundation grant-funded Composite Recycling Technician Education Program.

While the need for composite recycling has been identified, the methods and how to teach them have proved challenging.

Hardin is a member of a project team that is taking on the challenge of creating curriculum to address the industry-identified need for technicians who can safely and efficiently identify, handle, sort, track, and catalog composite waste. The team, composed of higher education faculty and employees, recently met in August at the National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU).

MatEdU, which is housed at Edmonds Community College, is funded by a National Science Foundation Advanced Technological Education (NSF ATE) directorate and is the only NSF ATE center focused on materials science.

Washington state Rep. Rick Larsen met with the team. He attended the Paris Air Show, the aerospace industry’s leading aviation show, in June, and said the issue of composite recycling and the need for workers who are skilled in this area was brought to his attention.

“We have a shortage in our trained, skilled workforce,” Larsen said. “That’s today’s challenge.”

The industry is challenged with needing skilled workers to fill jobs now, he said, while also needing workers who are trained for jobs that don’t exist yet, like composite recycling.

“Industry recognizes that there’s a business model opportunity, but we need technicians who can safely work with, catalog, and handle the material,” said team member Ann Avary, Skagit Valley College’s principal investigator.

The team is addressing the need with the Composite Recycling Technician Education Program (CRTEP), which is funded by a two-year, $194,000 NSF ATE grant.

“Industry partners have told us that there is gap here, but we don’t have the curriculum to teach students how to do it, and we don’t exactly know what we need to teach them,” said Marilyn Franklin, Skagit Valley College’s Institutional Advancement director. “This grant project allows all the ‘brains’ to get together to start identifying the knowledge, skills, and abilities students would need, how to teach them, and how to integrate them into industry practices.”

The team has completed its first year. They’ve developed a curriculum workshop with industry subject matter experts, two curriculum modules, and a database template where students could  learn to source and identify materials.

“This curriculum project is meant to augment current curriculum in composites,” said team member Darren Greeno, Skagit Valley College’s Workforce dean. “We’re not creating composite recyclers, because there’s no job for that yet. What we’re doing is a value add for programs that already exist.”

The CRTEP project team includes: Mel Cossette, executive director and principal investigator, National Resource Center for Materials Technology Education (MatEdU); Robin Ballard, program manager, MatEdU; James Russell, composites instructor, Peninsula College; Laura Brogden, associate dean of Basic Education for Adults and Corrections Department, Peninsula College; Sharon Buck, vice president of Instruction, Peninsula College; Norm Nelson, composites instructor, Peninsula College; Mia Boster, dean of instruction; Peninsula College; Ann Avary, principal investigator, Skagit Valley College; Laura Cailloux, vice president Whidbey Island campus, South Whidbey Center, San Juan Center, and Anacortes Center, Skagit Valley College; Kim Davis, project manager, Skagit Valley College; Darren Greeno, Workforce dean, Skagit Valley College; Marilyn Franklin, director of Institutional Advancement, Skagit Valley College; Kristin Hardin, University of Alabama at Birmingham doctoral student; Dr. Brian Pillay, co-principal investigator, University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Edmonds CC offers Engineering Technology associate degrees in Materials Science Technology, Manufacturing and Materials Science Technology, including composites, and Robotics and Electronics, and certificates in Aircraft Electronics Technician and Basic Electronics. For more information about Edmonds CC’s degrees, go to

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Laura Daniali