This week, students at Staffordshire University were tasked with identifying ways for local residents to help tackle environmental challenges in the region.
Teams of undergraduates from creative arts, humanities, engineering and law took part in a 24-hour design challenge then pitched their ideas, Dragon’s Den style, to a panel of judges at Staffordshire County Council.
Judges included Staffordshire County Councillors, sustainability experts from the University and Visiting Professor Andrew Lawrence, Executive Creative Director at global brand consultancy Elmwood.
Students put forward a variety of suggestions from harnessing power from the region’s canal systems to reducing CO2 emissions through better management of transport and using recycled plastics to fix roads.
Jordan Dale, 20 from Birches Head, is studying Criminal Justice with Offender Management. Her team proposed opening more cycle and bus lanes. She said: “This has worked in other big cities so it would be nice to see that change in our area too.”
“It’s been nice to talk to different people outside my subject area. Getting to know what they are interested in and what they are learning has been an interesting experience, I’ve learned a lot from it.”
The winning team were chosen for their project “Paving the way to sustainability” which incentivises residents to collect single use plastics that can be turned into asphalt for resurfacing roads and covering potholes.
Successful students Nesta Shingler and Shannon Frisby, from Engineering Design, and Law students Sam Salt and Sinead Bowles were presented with a £200 prize by Staffordshire County Council’s Chair Kath Perry MBE and Chief Executive John Henderson.
Nesta, 21 from Newcastle-Under-Lyme, said: “We thought we could incorporate poverty, infrastructure and production and consumption efforts into it. Getting single use plastics off the streets, out of houses and curbside by incentivising it. The community would gain rewards while cleaning the place up and the infrastructure would be helped as well.
“Being an engineer it’s all about problem solving but working with legal people has been really insightful. It just helps you think critically about different situations.”
Councillor David Smith, who was on the panel, explained: “I am passionately concerned about climate change and I think there are things that young people can tell us that are very important. What we have had this morning is a tremendous contribution from young people telling us what they want and what they see.”
Fellow judge Councillor Johnny McMahon, Chair for the Health Scrutiny Committee, added: “This is a planetary problem and it is going at a pace that makes it a real challenge for us all.”
The challenge is part of three year project “The Creative Connection” funded by the Royal Academy of Engineers, Visiting Professors Scheme.
Professor of Teaching and Learning Jess Power, who organised the challenge, said: “The students demonstrated the power of using science, technology, design, innovation and narrative to sell campaigns when groups from different disciplines come together. A really great day for all. A massive thanks to Staffordshire County Council and our Visiting Professor Andrew Lawrence for their contributions.”