Spartan Spotlight: David Dillman


Courtesy of David Dillman

Fourth-year mechanical and aerospace engineering student David Dillman started his own company and created a patent-pending microplastic filter.

Grace Johnson, News Editor

Case Western Reserve University has made a name for itself with its successful research endeavors and Nobel Laureates, and current students are continuing to make strides to continue that legacy of innovation. One such student is David “Dilly” Dillman, a fourth-year student majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering with a potential minor in philosophy. In addition to being an engineering student, he is also in charge of a curated co-op for a patent-pending device.

I decided to sit down and have a conversation with him to learn a little more about what it means to balance all those responsibilities as a CWRU student.

This patent-pending device was—you guessed it—invented and designed by Dilly, along with his partners, graduated mechanical engineer Max Pennington and fourth-year biomedical engineer Joseph “Chip” Miller IV. The goal of these three engineers is to cut down on the amount of microplastics in our world and, ultimately, in our bodies.

“You ingest about a credit cards’ worth of plastic every week and a large amount of that is from the direct result of washing machines draining into our water sources,” Dilly says. “Those microplastics in the washer drainage come from synthetic dyes in various fabrics, which ultimately end up in your bloodstream.”

Their device filters those microplastics from washing machines so that they do not poison our water system, the impacted ecosystems and eventually us humans. The co-op is centered around perfecting the device and working with lawyers and investors to further its development. 

Co-ops are a very common part of the engineering schools’ curricula, so Dilly being involved in one is not uncommon. What is uncommon, however, is that the co-op is for his own company, CLEANR—though he still has objectives and learning points along the way with the guidance of professors and others, just like other co-ops. “Jeanine at the co-op office let us make our own company into a co-op. I have learning objectives in order to advance in the company and myself to hopefully make some good in the world.”  

While all of this sounds awesome, what I really wanted to know about were some of his favorite experiences at CWRU.

When asked about his favorite classes, he listed two. One, EMAE 376: Aerostructures with Dr. Richard Bachmann, because, “Planes are like magic so to make sense of it is really cool,” and PHIL 101: Introduction to Philosophy, as “It is a different way of thinking about things.”

To get into the nitty gritty, however, I asked about his favorite and least favorite parts of studying at CWRU. 

“How helpful people are… in the [Sears] think[box]. I’ve never heard no, just a ‘let’s see what we can do,’” says Dilly. As for his least favorite part, “As an engineer I didn’t really have any room in my schedule to take anything interesting outside of mech[anical and] aero[space engineering]. Another thing is how I had to know what I wanted to study coming in or else I would be behind.”

Talking to Dilly about his experience was enlightening, to say the least, and opened my eyes to just how much is going on around CWRU if one looks outside of their own bubble.

Finally, when asked if there was anything he would like to share about his company, he stated that, “We’re trying really hard to help people solve problems that affect their everyday lives.”