reduce, reuse, reCompass
Jonathan Cao
David Thompson Secondary
Floor Location : M 106 N

Compass is a contactless smart card payment system used in Metro Vancouver transit. Although widely successful, it is causing environmental problems. A large number of single use tickets are simply being thrown out because they are difficult to recycle. To make these Compass tickets recyclable, the electronics embedded inside them need to be removed and separated from the paper.

A Lego based robotics system, reCompass, was developed to make this recycling process a reality. Hardware design consisted of the NXT Intelligence Brick along with various blocks and sensors. The software programming was based on Mindstorms NXT 2.0 studios. When testing, I used three types of fares: the regular grey Compass ticket, a simulated "time remaining" Compass ticket (ticket wrapped in yellow construction paper), and a blue Compass card. The first signifies that it is expired, so the system will activate immediately once inserted. However, the second means that there is still time remaining, thus the system will initially reject the ticket. Then a countdown from three to one starts, and if the ticket is removed any time before the final count, the process will stop. Otherwise, the ticket is taken, meaning that the user does not wish to keep it. The last test subject was a reloadable Compass card, which was programmed not to be taken in any situation because reCompass was designed solely for the tickets.

The prototype showed a general concept idea, however some of the functions were not included due to resource, budget and time limitation. Most notably the thermoelectric separation process, responsible for splitting the copper from the paper using electricity-generated heat. Others did not turn out successful, like the stamping block being unable to penetrate the ticket. However, the results achieved went above the hypothesis. Several new functions were added along the way that were not part of original schematics, most prominently the function when a ticket has time remaining. In four stages, reCompass grew from a simple two part card reader to a complete, intricate system.

reCompass solves a huge potential problem with the non-recyclable single use Compass tickets. It helps BC transit reduce their carbon footprint, makes the Compass system more environmentally friendly and promotes the recyclability and sustainability concepts: reduce, reuse, recycle. Although reCompass still requires many more prototyping iterations to prove out the design, the concept is very real. It is not only applicable for BC transit, but can be extended to transit systems around the world.