Visit student Laine Greaves-Smith in his garage, and you will find him buried in an assortment of sprockets, gears, pipes, bearings, aluminum, steel and transmission chains. He is using recycled car parts to create functional art pieces, such as a chandelier, table, lamp or vase. Instead of heading to a furniture store, Greaves-Smith, who is studying both mechanical and electrical engineering, sifts through his garage for inspiration and begins stacking and welding pieces together until he creates a design.
“It’s important for engineers to look at problems differently than how they’re taught in class,” said Greaves-Smith. “I get enough numbers in classes, so this helps me de-stress and use my hands.”
Greaves-Smith originally attended Webster University for technical theater design but transferred to Mines because he “missed the challenge of advanced courses.” However, some of his most rewarding experiences have occurred outside of class.
When Greaves-Smith was constructing a battle axe, he teamed up with Metallurgical and Materials Engineering Teaching Associate Professor Gerald Bourne to study the best way to strengthen the steel. In Bourne's lab, Greaves-Smith created micrographs of the treated and untreated steel to analyze the internal structure of each sample.
This past fall, he collaborated with Mechanical Engineering Teaching Associate Professor Robert Amaro to determine the best bearings for all seven moving parts of a table he was constructing. He then worked in the College of Engineering and Computational Sciences machine shop in Brown Hall to fabricate the precision parts required for the design.
“I enjoy using car parts because there are so many beautifully engineered and crafted components inside a car that most people never see,” said Greaves-Smith. “By putting these components out in the open as art, more people can appreciate the craftsmanship of each piece and that of my assembly.”
In April, Greaves-Smith received third place in in Longmont's EcoCreations 6 juried exhibition for his chandelier piece, which was made up of bike chains and a bike wheel. In February, he showcased some of his collection at the First Friday Art Walk in Denver.
Greaves-Smith recently returned from competing with the Blasterbotica team in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition where they placed second in the presentation and demonstration category. This summer, he has an internship at Kurion (founded by Mines alumnus Marc Rood ’03), where he will be designing and assembling robots to help clean up contaminated reactor sites at Fukushima.