Xandra Jones said her passion is anything that has to do with creativity or sustainability.
She put both those things—and a heavy dose of curiosity -- to work in her undergraduate research BioBin project in the Calhoun Honors Discovery Program.
In her collaborative project, Xandra investigated the recycling and waste management system in Blacksburg and the surrounding New River Valley to detect barriers to recycling. She went to the Montgomery County Recycling Center and interviewed both managers and workers in the facility.
What she and her group found is that the biggest obstacle to recycling was improper sorting by consumers. With people recycling so much that is actually trash, it contaminated the recycling stream, made jobs more difficult, and made the recycling process more expensive and less efficient.
Xandra and her group went on to interview Virginia Tech’s waste management services to understand college campus waste management and how Virginia Tech handles recycling sorting. They also interviewed Virginia Tech’s current trash and recycling bin producer, Big Belly, to understand the bins from the manufacturing and product design side. From all of this research stemmed the idea of BioBin, a waste bin that sorts recycling from trash for the consumer and in the process helps educate consumers on recycling.
Her nominator wrote, “For Ms. Jones, this project helps to highlight her ongoing curiosity as it relates to finding real world solutions to sustainability.”
A senior majoring in industrial design, Xandra said, “As someone who works in design, the world is just so interesting to me. Essentially everything we interact with every day was made by and for humans, and so it’s fascinating to see it all at work. With that being said, what challenges me to discover and learn new things is that we haven’t done a very good job. There are so many issues in this world, including the issue closest to my heart -- climate change. By being curious and open to new information, I hope to discover things that were previously unacknowledged and work to solve some of these issues.”
In addition to being a member of the first cohort of the Honors College's Calhoun Discovery Program, Xandra assists Professor Brook Kennedy in the fabrication and research of the fog harp, a device that harvests fog for water.
Xandra said she is most proud of how much she has grown since coming to Virginia Tech. She said, “I came to this school not knowing what I was doing or who I was as a person, and being here, surrounded by so many impressive, kind, loving people has allowed me to grow into the person I am today. I’ve gained so much confidence in both myself and my work.
Xandra said, “I have learned two things: rejection is scary, but if you never put yourself out there, you’re rejecting yourself. And you can never reach your goals if you don’t know what they are.”
For her fearlessness in search of answers, I am pleased to present the Aspire! Award for COMMIT TO UNWAVERING CURIOSITY to Xandra Jones.