Milford students L.A.-bound with award-winning invention

Two Milford 16-year-olds, Teresina Berni and Ethan Weed, are bringing their prize-winning design for the Wasteless Urban Composter to Los Angeles later this month for a chance to win a cash prize of $100,000.

The pair, along with fellow student leaders from their 28-person team at the Engineering and Science University Magnet School in New Haven, will be competing against the other first place winners from the three age divisions of this year’s Paradigm Challenge innovation competition.

Students aged 4 to 18 from 173 countries participated in the competition, which challenged students to come up with new ideas to reduce waste in homes, schools, communities and the world at large.

The Wasteless Urban Composter tied for first place in the 14-18 age group.

The team’s invention concept seeks to retrofit existing dumpsters with a revolutionary combination of shredding, tumbling, heating and filtration to create a composting solution ideal for urban environments. Their Wasteless system reduces emissions, speeds up the composting process, limits the risk of pest infestations, and runs entirely on solar power.

For the team members, what began as a challenge to develop an eco-friendly concept transformed into a practical solution to a real-world problem. “[It expanded] my knowledge on the interplay between environmental science and manufacturing,” said Teresina Berni, one of the Wasteless project’s student leaders. “The idea of saving the environment is cool, but it's how you actually do it that interests me and is what I learned from this project.”

The Wasteless team already has calculated their startup costs for a prototype unit they hope will ignite the production and distribution of their composter in cities across the country.

“These students took this project very, very seriously,” explained their teacher, Leon Tynes, recalling that that their meeting room “often looked like a board room.”

Each year, The Paradigm Challenge offers $250,000 in prizes to the top 100 Finalists and their teachers. The winning entries this year tackled waste reduction from different angles, including inventions, scientific research, mobile apps, service projects, websites and children's books. The 100 finalists are posted on Project Paradigm's website,, for public voting.

The next Paradigm Challenge will ask students to generate new ideas to improve personal health through wellness and healing and will officially launch on Aug. 1. The entry deadline is May 1, 2018.