One man's junk is another man's… 3D printer.
Afate Gnikou, geographer and researcher from Togo in Africa, and his team won first place in NASA's International Apps Challenge in Paris earlier this year by building a 3D printer out of scrap parts he pulled from a landfill.
"My dream is to give young people hope and to show that Africa, too, has its place on the global market when it comes to technology," Gnikou told the Tottenham News. "We are able to create things."
While having to buy a few of the components, Gnikou and spent less than a $100 on his printer. The majority of the pieces, including things like an old computer tower frame, came from a massive landfill in Ghana where America and Europe dumps thousands of tons of high-tech refuse known as "e-waste."
The ultimate goal is to clean up the landfill marring the African countryside while helping to colonize Mars.
The idea is to load the remaining trash, along with a robotic arm mounted on a caterpillar track and several printers onto a rocket ship aimed at Mars. The printers and the arm will then use the trash as raw materials for equipment needed to colonize the Red Planet.
"Our project wants to realize this utopia," states a description of the project on NASA's International Space Apps Challenge Web site. "The W. Afate, is an African 3D printer completely built in e-waste, as a pioneer of this new era of ecology and the virtuous spatial conquest."
It makes you wonder where was Gnikou in 1965 when NASA doled out nearly $4,400 for 34 mechanical "space pencils" they planned to send up on Apollo missions but never actually used because they were afraid the lead would break off and float around in the capsules when exposed to the weightlessness of space?