Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Soda Cans and Computer Fans Are Keeping Poor Denver Families Warm

A mechanical engineering professor teaches his students to design inexpensive furnaces.

Aaron Brown, a mechanical engineering professor at Metropolitan State University in Denver, has volunteered in poverty-stricken areas around the world. But now he’s using his expertise to help low-income families in his home city. Brown and his students are building solar-powered furnaces with simple components, including soda cans and computer fans, and installing them in the homes of low-income families in Denver. The devices work by drawing on heat stored in sun-warmed aluminum cans, and run on just two cents of electricity per day. When Brown first started the project at the University of Colorado in Boulder, students came up with a design that cost $60 to build. He challenged his next group of students at Metro in Denver to further reduce the cost, and they succeeded, designing units that could be built for $30 a piece. The furnaces are capable of saving families $30 a month on their heating bills. The students get something out of it too. “There was a little boy who was going to be sleeping there. He was going, ‘I’m going to be so warm tonight,'” Richard Anderson, a Metro State senior, told the Denver Post. “That was just so cool — it’s really exceeded my expectations.”

MORE: How a Mobile Shower System Helps the Homeless

Source: Denver Post

Jenny Shank is a fiction writer and journalist in Boulder, Colo. Her first novel, “The Ringer,” won the High Plains Book Award. Her stories, essays, satire and reviews have appeared in The Atlantic, McSweeney's and The Guardian.