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Can't Afford an Air Conditioner? Make One

Necessity is the mother of invention. So, apparently, is sweating: A college student's lack of air conditioning inspired him to figure out an inexpensive way to keep cool using a garbage can filled with ice water and an electric fan.

Geoff Milburn, a civil engineering student in Ontario, says his system can chill a room in 15-20 minutes and costs about $25 (Canadian) to produce. It works by conveying the ice water via copper tubing along the back of the fan, cooling the air in the process.

Milburn tells Scott Simon about his invention and offers a detailed how-to on his Web site. "I realise small air conditioners are quite cheap," he writes. "But then you don't get to build anything!"

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Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.