Montana State University

Bozeman couple donates high-tech plastics collection to MSU

August 15, 2013 -- By Sepp Jannotta, MSU News Service

Montana State University employee Luke Ralston uses a forklift to move a load of high-tech plastics that was recently donated to MSU's Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department by Lee Brekke and Florence Krinitt of Bozeman. The gift of tens of thousands of pieces of plastics material was made in honor of Krinitt's son, Perry Krinitt, who died in a 2010 helicopter crash. MSU Photo by Sepp Jannotta.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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BOZEMAN – A Bozeman couple recently donated a huge stockpile of plastics material, valued at more than $100,000, to Montana State University’s Mechanical & Industrial Engineering Department.

After coordinating with the Montana State University Alumni Foundation and Stephen Sofie, professor in the Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Department, MSU alumni Lee Brekke and his wife, Florence Krinitt, decided to give the plastics, which include some high-tech composites, to MSU.

Brekke, who owns an area construction company, began delivering the plastics to the College of Engineering complex in late July. The loads continued arriving over the course of a couple of days and required a forklift to move into storage.

The large crates contain a wide variety of plastics, with pieces numbering in the tens of thousands, in all shapes and sizes, from large blocks to thin dowels. Some of the pieces are expensive NASA-grade material designed to withstand high-stress environments, Brekke said.

“This is a very significant gift for our programs and for the entire university,” said Chris Jenkins, head of the Mechanical & Industrial Engineering Department. “And it’s not just about the value of the materials.”

Jenkins said a large number of the department’s 1,000 engineering students might be working on projects and coursework in the Manufacturing Lab over the course of a given academic year. Substituting plastics for the aluminum materials they currently use for fabricating and machining will save MSU thousands of dollars in wear and tear on the lab’s equipment, Jenkins said.

The arrival of the vast stockpile of plastics also coincides with plans within MSU to develop a doctoral program in materials science and engineering that would push new research in the use of plastics in a whole host of new technologies. For example, M&IE’s Welding Lab is being repurposed as a more general Joining Technologies Lab, where students will learn about adhesive bonding used for composite aircraft, Jenkins said.

“This is part of the College of Engineering’s effort to push the envelope of materials engineering, and to offer the most cutting-edge research opportunities to our graduate students,” Jenkins said.

The donation came about because Florence Krinitt’s son, Perry Krinitt, had invested in the materials with a plan to market them on eBay. Perry Krinitt, a commercial helicopter pilot, subsequently died in a 2010 helicopter crash.

Brekke said he and Florence felt that making the donation was another way for them to honor Perry.

“We’re hopeful that it can be put to good use by students and faculty across campus,” Brekke said. “A physics professor wandered by and asked whom to contact about acquiring some of it for use in his lab.”

Sepp Jannotta, (406) 994-7371 or seppjannotta@montana.edu.