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Kauaians to showcase sustainability projects

April 17, 2017 GMT

PUHI — Sterling Snyder has a goal: to travel from Ke’e Beach to Polihale State Park on bicycle.

But Snyder won’t be riding a racing bike, nor a standard road bike for the 75-mile trip.

Instead, he will be on an electric bicycle. One that he made himself to prove a point.

“My hope with the e-bike is to raise awareness that if this thing can make it all the way around the island, then really people don’t have a lot of excuses not to switch to an e-bike if they live and work and stay around Lihue, for example,” he said.

The Kauai Community College student has dedicated his studies, free time and passion to sustainability projects like the e-bike. He recently joined Surfrider Foundation and helped pick up over 1,500 pounds of trash and waste. But he isn’t just looking to help the environment in the present; he has his eye fixated on projects that will make a difference down the road.

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“My projects are sustainable-based,” Snyder said.

He has a certificate in sustainability sciences management at KCC and is working on a natural sciences/biology major.

“Sustainability is my focus,” he said. “Being here now and being able to go back to school and actually pursue things that matter is incredible.”

Snyder doesn’t consider himself a typical college student. In his own words, how many 30-year-olds from Alaska can say that they live and study on Kauai?

Appreciative of his new home on the Garden Isle, Snyder has dedicated his focus on sustainability projects at KCC, which will be on display Friday during Earth Week festivities.

The first one is a 20-foot albatross sculpture he is constructing out of non-recycled plastics he collected himself.

“Kauai has a big trash problem so some of these are beach plastics, roadside plastics, plastics that were put into the wrong recycling bin, and so I want to raise awareness about how much stuff is being put out there,” he said. “It really shouldn’t be there.”

Snyder’s e-bike will also be on display Friday.

The bike travels about 30 miles per hour and he was able to get 13 people to put almost 20 miles on it before the battery died.

He plans to solve this problem by ordering new parts that will allow the e-bike to recharge more efficiently.

“The battery is from an old Toyota hybrid vehicle. It’s taken quite a lot of time to construct, but my hope is that I’ll be able to have this bicycle to ride from Ke’e to Polihale in one day, in one charge,” Snyder said. “My hope is to have most of it, if not all of it, done by the showing.”

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Not only is Snyder trying to raise awareness about e-bikes, he also has helping people on his mind.

The next step for the e-bike is to have a cover over the bike that can be zipped onto another piece of fabric that can be used as a tent. Andrea Erichsen, STEM/grant coordinator at KCC, said the cover could be used as shelter for those without one.

“He’s really thinking of his invention in a compassionate way,” Erichsen said. “It’s about the students and highlighting what they’re learning.”

If the albatross and e-bike weren’t enough, Snyder also intends to showcase the work he’s been doing with a grant from the college to capture hydro-electric power, along with a beach cleanup tool he describes as a waste bin with a screen on the bottom that is used to sift through the sand to pick up trash and plastic.

“You lift it up and then it sorts out for you,” he said. “But that’s something for the future.”

Snyder’s projects, along with other student projects, will be showcased at KCC from 10 a.m. to noon at the Student Center.