Visit student Laine Greaves-Smith in his garage and you’ll find him buried in an assortment of sprockets, gears, pipes, bearings, aluminum, steel, and transmission chains. The Mines engineering student uses recycled car parts to create functional art pieces, such as chandeliers, lamps, and vases. Instead of heading to a furniture store, Greaves-Smith, who is studying both mechanical and electrical engineering, sifts through his garage for inspiration and then stacks and welds pieces together to create unique designs. “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 he transferred to Mines because he missed the challenge of advanced courses. Some of his most rewarding experiences, however, have occurred outside of class.
When Greaves-Smith decided to construct a battle axe, he teamed up with Gerald Bourne, a Teaching Associate Professor in the Department of Metallurgical and Materials Engineering at Mines, 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.
Last fall, Greaves-Smith collaborated with Mechanical Engineering Teaching Associate Professor Robert Amaro to determine the best bearings for all seven moving parts of a table he was building. 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,” he said. “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 took third place in Longmont’s EcoCreations 6 juried exhibition for his chandelier piece, which was fabricated from bike chains and a bike wheel. In February, he showcased some of his collection at the First Friday Art Walk in Denver. Then in May, he competed with the Blasterbotica team in the NASA Robotic Mining Competition at Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where they placed second in the presentation