Chemical engineers are pioneering a process to equip diesel ships with the onboard capacity to turn collected plastic garbage into fuel. The result dubbed “blue diesel” would save time, money, and emissions in both the trips necessary for ocean-cleaning vessels to reach the mainland to offload and in running fuel use.
Professor Nikolaos Kazantzis and Michael Timko at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts took a lot of perseverance in their work of developing blue diesel from the fact that the chemical bonds of plastic and those of fossil fuels are essentially the same. Their work was funded by a two-year, $259k grant from the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) 2026 Idea Machine competition.
They modeled the economics of the project based on existing datasets of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean that’s already being cleaned by several groups using large ship-mounted booms and nets. Nikolaos says “The project is still in the early stages, but it appears that economically, the HTL system is a modest additional cost relative to the clean-up vessel and boom system. The next challenge will be to creatively structure the portfolio of the public policy responses of collecting and removing waste plastic – including the impact on marine and human health.”
Team member and fifth-year Ph.D. candidate Elizabeth Belden said that the technology would also be exceptionally useful on rivers, since they would require less fuel to navigate on, and since the overwhelming majority of plastic in the ocean enters it via major river systems.
This past summer more than 300 high school graduates signed up for a unique student exchange program. Unlike the well-known foreign exchange model that affords students a chance to study abroad, this program gives students the opportunity to soak in a brand-new culture without ever leaving the country.
the American Exchange Project, or AEP for short, co-founded by 29-year-old David McCullough III, grandson of the late Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David McCullough. “We fund kids to spend a week in the summer after senior year in an American town that is politically and socio-economically and culturally very different from the one that they’re growing up in,” McCullough said.
McCullough described the origins of AEP: “I grew up in the Ivory Tower, like, a life of enormous privilege. I wanted to get out of all of that and see a part of the country that I wasn’t exposed to, but I knew was out there.” In 2016, he borrowed his mom’s car and spent two months driving across the country, experiencing all social and political backgrounds. He said “I thought I’d be chased away. I thought doors would be slammed in my face. I thought people wouldn’t want to talk to me. And not only did that not happen, but the opposite of that happened everywhere I went.”
For the past three years he’s been giving high school graduates that same experience, and so far at least, it’s having the impact he hoped it would. Young adults in the program say it was a bonding experience that was out of this world. McCullough hopes to offer the program to a million students a year by decade’s end, and all free of charge, thanks to big name donors, including the likes of Steven Spielberg. “I think this all ought to be as typical to the American high school experience as the prom,” McCullough said. “I think every kid in every town should have an experience like this.”
A bride-to-be going through cancer treatment is “completely overwhelmed” after her wedding venue and suppliers offered to donate everything for free. Katelen Cheshire, 23, and Billy Green, 29, from Telford, set the date for November 16th in a Christmas themed wedding at Stanford Farm, Shrewsbury.
Cheshire said she had a look around Stanford Farm with Cindy Edwards over video conferencing and had fallen in love with the venue. Cheshire said “At the end of the Zoom she asked to get to know me a bit more and about my situation. After that, she told me she wanted to do the wedding completely free of charge, we ended up crying together. I couldn’t string out a sentence, I was completely overwhelmed with her kindness.”
Edwards contacted suppliers who also said they would provide services for free, including flowers, decorations, photos and music. A bridal dress has been given to the 23-year-old by Distinctive Bridal wedding shop.Edwards said “It’s incredible what teamwork can do and this really will be a Christmas wedding to remember.”
As Cheshire counts down to her wedding day, she’ll be traveling back and forth to hospital for chemotherapy and has a cell transplant scheduled in December. Cheshire said the chemotherapy treatments have led to a financial strain and when Edwards decided to organize this, it took a huge weight off her shoulders. “She truly is an incredible person. I couldn’t be anymore thankful for what everyone is doing for me” Cheshire said.
Shrusti Amula, learned that food waste contributes to climate change and she wanted to make a difference. The 16-year-old from Maryland decided to use the climate crisis to help address hunger and homelessness. She founded Rise N Shine Foundation in 2019 and started her first composting program at a local school.
Composting offers numerous environmental and agricultural benefits. For starters, composting redirects organic waste away from landfills. When organic waste is stored in landfills, it generates a greenhouse gas called methane. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, methane is 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide in terms of its heat trapping capacity.
Rise N Shine Foundation’s composting program collects food waste during school lunch hours and hauls it back to composting sites. Partnering with multiple local schools and corporate sponsors, the organization currently runs composting programs in eight schools and has gathered over 150,000 meals for families facing food insecurity.
Through her efforts, she has diverted 200,000 pounds of food waste from landfills and helped schools reach the “Green School” certification process. The composting program is just one of dozens of programs from her non-profit organization. They’re dedicated to motivating people of all ages and backgrounds to take on leadership positions to help the less fortunate.
A shelter dog was finally adopted after waiting 11 years. Vanessa had been living at Villalobos Rescue Center, in Louisiana since she had been dumped there in 2012 as a puppy. Whilst Vanessa didn’t get the best start to life, she was looked after and nurtured by staff at Villalobos. Now a senior dog, her chances of finding her forever home were even lower.
Only 25% of older shelter pups get the chance to be rehomed into a loving family. Generally these older pups already have some basic training, so you don’t have to spend a lot of time teaching them commands. They have generally grown out of puppy habits, such as chewing, and are more likely to be toilet trained too. Unfortunately, they are overlooked because most adopters are wary of health issues or are seeking out young pups. Many shelters have senior programs who will pay for all of the costs for senior shelter dogs for the rest of their lives to increase their chance of finding a forever home.
Vanessa is crate-trained, well-behaved and extremely friendly. The sweet pup finally found the forever home. Her new owner is an experienced adopter, having already adopted two dogs from Villalobos in the past. Both of her dogs had recently passed so she visited the center and immediately found her match with Vanessa.
A bride received a letter and card from her dad from beyond the grave on her wedding day. Freya Rosati was just 11 when her dad, Philip Hargreaves, died from esophageal cancer at the age of 53. The two were very close but understanding his fate, Philip wrote nine cards for Freya, eight for birthdays, and a final one for her wedding day in the weeks before he died.
Freya,now 32 years old and a self-professed “daddy’s girl”, she was determined to involve her father as much as possible on her big day. Little bits and pieces of their 11 years together were everywhere from the music to the decor. Having enjoyed a holiday to Antigua, Freya had steel pans play her aisle-walk music. Photographs of Philip and Freya bedecked a ‘memory tree’ which sat at the front of the wedding venue.
But it was her mom Theresa reading the card to wedding guests in lieu of Philip’s father-of-the-bride speech—that left everyone in tears. Freya said “Even looking at his handwriting on that card, it really just felt like he was there, and it was so nice. It was such a sad moment but so important to me that the card was read out.”
The message Philip wrote is as heartwarming as the circumstance in which it was read. “I wish I could be standing next to you, the proudest dad in the world, to walk you down the aisle to the man you love, and to the next chapter in your life. Today is your day, enjoy everything about it. Laugh and cry. Be happy and confident. Face everything full-on. You will then succeed in your life together. You gave me some of the proudest moments in my life with your sense of humor, intelligence, understanding, and caring nature. Don’t ever change. Love you forever, dad.”
I Want To Mow Your Lawn, the volunteer movement to help seniors with lawn maintenance is still going strong. Brian Schwartz from Wayne, New Jersey, has pull-started a nationwide movement to automate and scale kindness after losing his job during the pandemic and feeling like he wanted to make a positive impact in the world.
He started a volunteer lawn care organization to help seniors, the disabled, and veterans mow their lawns, trim their hedges, and cut back their trees. And he and its volunteers have been doing it all for free. Three years later, the nationwide movement has helped spruce up over 2,000 lawns. The I Want To Mow Your Lawn organization collaborates with major equipment makers like STIHL MilwaukeeTool and Ryobi to outfit volunteers with equipment to help others.
The overwhelming support and recognition from individuals, volunteers, and partners like Project Evergreen and Raising Men Lawn Care Service have been heartwarming,” Schwartz said. The organization’s YouTube channel reveals it’s not all about lawns, but snow and ice, as well as piles of leaves. If there’s a lawn with a problem, Brian and his team are still happy to help.
A Georgia Chick-fil-A employee jumped into action and saved the life of a young girl after she heard the child’s mother screaming for help in the drive-thru. Liliana Leahy stopped at her local Chick-fil-A restaurant in Newnan with her daughter Theia on her way to the grocery store.
While waiting in the drive-thru line, Theia suddenly began making choking noises in the backseat.
Terrified, her mother Leahy jumped out of her seat and ran to help her daughter, whose eyes were filling with tears as she motioned that she had something stuck in her throat. “I have learned before to help in this situation, but I froze and panic set in, so I screamed for help,” Leahy said.
Immediately, a Chik-fil-A worker ran over to help and began performing the Heimlich on Theia. Sure enough, a coin flew out of the girl’s mouth. Leahy said the ordeal was only a couple of minutes but it felt like forever. Chick-fil-A staff, who have a reputation for being among the friendliest fast food workers in the country, then gave Theia ice cream after she asked for some.
After the terrifying ordeal, Leahy asked friends on a social media post to help track down the worker who saved her daughter’s life — an employee named Mia, whom she was able to speak with. Mia Isabella Velez, 18, said she originally thought what she heard was laughing but once she recognized what she was hearing as cries for help, her instincts kicked in. Velez said “It’s surreal when you hear that you saved her life. You don’t expect to get that title. It’s a lesson for all of us to learn that you can be the light to somebody else, and I’m so glad I got to be the one for that family.”
A Huron High School senior, who was unable to attend her much-anticipated homecoming due to a recent brain surgery, received a heartwarming surprise when the hospital staff brought the homecoming festivities to her. The hospital staff ensured that Megan Krafty had the chance to experience those cherished moments she had been looking forward to, including sharing a dance with her boyfriend Tommy on the hospital’s dance floor.
The heartwarming event came after Megan’s recent brain surgery, during which doctors successfully removed 70% of a glioma tumor the size of a golf ball. Krafty’s brain cancer was diagnosed in May after a post-seizure MRI revealed the golf ball-sized tumor. Her mother said they had to leave 30% of the tumor because it is connected to her nervous system. As a result of the surgery, Krafty has experienced some paralysis on her left side. It was when she arrived at the Cleveland Clinic for rehab depressed about missing out on homecoming that the staff decided to make a plan.
The community rallied around Megan during her recovery. The caring staff even decorated the gym with a Christmas theme in honor of Megan’s love for the holiday. Krafty was overcome with emotion when she arrived at the gym, which had been transformed into a winter wonderland.
In a touching display of unity and encouragement, the Huron Police and Fire Department, the high school’s football and volleyball teams, neighbors, friends, Megan’s entire family, and the Huron High School marching band lined the streets, cheering for her as she made her way back home.
A Starbucks supervisor is getting ready to buy a new car, thanks to her coworkers and an entire college campus. Karen Collinsworth, 65, has been living near the Marshall University campus in Huntington, West Virginia, for decades, and working for a Starbucks location near the campus for many of those years as well.
Collinsworth’s coworkers knew she frequently had issues with her 2004 Kia that she didn’t like to talk about. But when she told them someone had stolen the catalytic converter on top of the already existing issues, her co workers wanted to help. Collingsworth’s reputation for kindness prompted a campus to come to her aid when her car was running on its last legs.
Co-workers Jaiden Horn and Cassie Gray, both sophomores at Marshall, said everyone loves working with Collinsworth. After personal items were stolen when her car was broken just days after the catalytic converter was stolen, the two, along with several other baristas, talked about possibly setting up a GoFundMe after one of them saw an anonymous post from someone wishing they could donate money to help Collinsworth.
Gray says “We all just kind of talked about it and we floated around the idea of starting a fundraiser for her. After work when I got back to my dorm, I decided to just make it because I figured even if we couldn’t raise that much money, any amount would help her. It was just kind of like a spur of the moment thing.”
The GoFundMe “We Love You Karen” was started with the original goal of $10,000 to “help her buy a working car and ensure she wouldn’t have to worry about monthly bills.” To date, the fundraiser has raised over $40,000 for Collinsworth. Horn says her co-workers all shared the fundraiser on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat and Yik Yak, and that goal was met in the first 24 hours.
There are big donations, the highest being a $5,000 donation from Marshall University president Brad Smith, but most of the more than 1,200 donations were just $5. A thankful Collinsworth said “All the $5 donations meant more to me than $1,000 or $3,000 ones. It was just precious coming from these college kids that can’t afford a cup of coffee. Just goes to show you their kindness. I know those kids love me and that’s what makes my life worthwhile,” says Karen Collinsworth, who considers herself a “Starbucks mom” to her 19-year-old co-workers.