Spring 2020

Waste not

Terry Tollefson

Growing up outside Kenyon, Minnesota, Christopher Lang was on a computer whenever he wasn’t at school. The software engineering senior at the University of Minnesota Crookston (UMC) credits a UMC class for cultivating his interest in embedded systems—computer systems that function within larger mechanical or electrical systems. Using knowledge from the class, he created a campus-wide semi-automated recycling tracking system called Waste Watchers. 

How did you get the idea for Waste Watchers?

I work in the campus sustainability office. We were trying to find a way to get students to recycle more and collect data about trash vs. recycling. My supervisor and I came up with the idea. Users select what they’re recycling, like plastic or cardboard, and earn points toward prizes. That project is a big reason I got an internship at NASA.

What did you do at NASA?

I worked as a programmer on an aircraft project at Armstrong Flight Research Center near Los Angeles. My job was getting data from sensors on the aircraft for further analysis. I’m applying for jobs now, all in the aerospace industry and working with embedded systems.

How have scholarships helped?

They let me worry less about funding and more about gaining experience that will help me achieve my goals.