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High-Tech Trash Man: Professor Develops Explosion-Resistant Waste Receptacles

  • August 18, 2014
  • By Teddi Barron     
Blast-proof containers could be used to counter safety threats in public spaces and events.


Sometimes in the high-stakes world of commercial design, even the best ideas get shelved. About 10 years ago, when Will Prindle was the vice president of design and development for a California company that creates public-space furnishings, his proposal for an explosion-resistant public trash receptacle was scrapped.

Now an assistant professor of industrial design at Iowa State University, Prindle has retrieved his discarded idea from the corporate junkyard and intends to see it through to the marketplace.

“This project has a lot of validity still, especially after the Boston Marathon [bombing],” Prindle said. “The receptacles could be used in shopping malls, light rail stations and at public events—which are considered ‘soft targets’ because they are relatively unprotected areas or vulnerable to attack.”

Finalizing and testing the technology is Prindle’s first research project as an academic. Manufacturing the waste receptacles offers commercial potential for Iowa. Prindle also plans to reach out to Iowa security officials to learn where such a product could be used throughout the state, like at the Iowa State Fair or along RAGBRAI (the Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa), which attract thousands of people and could pose a greater security risk.

And once proven, the technology presents endless possibilities for his Iowa State students to design other blast-proof architectural products, like doors, barricades and walls.

Prindle came to Iowa State in 2011. During his 35-year career as an industrial designer, more than 1,000 of his designs were produced for companies such as Anchor Hocking, Crate and Barrel, Dansk Designs, Gorham Silver, Oneida Housewares and Starbucks Coffee. Prindle holds numerous patents, both foreign and domestic.