Driving sustainability: University students and Hamilton manufacturer tackle eco-challenges

17 March 2023

Students from the University of Waikato met with Action Manufacturing to talk about their ideas
The team leads represented their groups and spoke about ideas with Action Manufacturing.

A group of University of Waikato students are helping solve sustainability challenges for the largest vehicle specialist in Australasia.

Third-year students are collaborating with Action Manufacturing to design a new product from otherwise binned plywood offcuts, used to build their motorhomes, specialised vehicles and more.

“We’re trying to address the challenge we have which is too much excess plywood cut-off, " says Action Manufacturing sustainability lead Katie Glasgow-Palmer. “The plywood is great quality, worth a bit of money, but we need to better utilise this waste.”

The 40 students are part of The Impact Lab, a Work-Integrated Learning (WIL) paper at Waikato, that provides students from all disciplines an opportunity to develop solutions for a sustainability problem posed by a local organisation.

Working in groups of five, the students were asked to create a proposal for a commercially viable product that Action Manufacturing could sell. The winning group wins tickets to the Waitomo Caves' black water rafting experience.

Katie says Action Manufacturing is excited to work with the students
Katie is enjoying working with students on their sustainability ideas.

"Ultimately, we want to stop this valuable material from entering landfill and instead create something beneficial for the community," says Katie. "Being part of The Impact Lab and working with students is great. We love fresh ideas and new talent and appreciate their enthusiasm. It’s inspiring for us all."

Third-year Bachelor of Arts student Sherise Ho wants to use the excess plywood to create second-hand pop-up furniture for students.

“We need something super cheap, easy to build and environmentally friendly,” says Sherise, who is team leader for her student group.

The Screen and Media Studies major says she’s enjoying the physical elements of the paper and hopes every industry is thinking about ways to be sustainable.

“Everyone needs to learn about this sort of stuff, regardless of your degree, it’s great,” says Sherise.

Action Manufacturing has 75 years of experience in the industry – manufacturing and modifying transportation for the tourism, freight, heavy transport, medical and emergency fields.

Sherise hopes to create pop-up furniture for students
Sherise Ho and her group want to create cheap, sustainable furniture for students.

Bachelor of Science student Aria Kerebs and her group are hoping their idea of disability ramps will be used across the community.

“We want to scout areas around Hamilton and talk to people about where these ramps could be beneficial.”

With a major in Ecology and Biodiversity, Aria says she’s excited to study a different side to sustainability.

“This is different from everything else I’ve done, it’s very self-motivated and working in a team is a great experience.”

Meanwhile, Bachelor of Health, Sport and Human Performance student Jack Prestidge-King (Ngati Raukawa) wants to take his group’s idea to schools.

“We need something beneficial and also educational, so the idea of compost bins is something that everyone can use.”

At Waikato University, work-integrated learning is a compulsory part of every undergraduate degree, and something that Jack says he has enjoyed.

“It’s been fun, and so different from my sports degree. It’s helped me broaden my horizons and open my eyes to different things.”

Latest stories

Related stories

Waikato ranked in top 100 universities globally for sustainability

The University of Waikato has been recognised in the top 100 universities worldwide in the…

Professor Chris Battershill

Renowned scientist honoured for dedication to marine conservation

World-renowned marine scientist Professor Chris Battershill has been honoured for his significant contributions to marine…

Image of Dr Chris Eames

How can we prepare young people to save the world when we haven’t?

Young people today are facing a future of complex environmental challenges. But a new framework…

The winning team

Transforming waste into eco-friendly gold

A 300-litre compost bin using plywood offcuts from vehicle manufacturing has won a sustainable design…

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Sustainability Professor Lynda Johnston

Waikato ranks in top 100 of universities globally

The University of Waikato has been recognised in the top 100 of educational institutions worldwide…

Joel, Kyle and Akshay

University of Waikato students gain work experience and solve sustainability problems through Impact Lab

Year three students shared their findings at an Impact Lab presentation event this week, as…

University’s decarbonisation plans get a boost

The University of Waikato is closer to its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030,…

Kiri Reihana

Ocean scientist awarded L’Oréal Fellowship

A University of Waikato PhD student has won a L’Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science mentoring…

Elise Legarth

Predicting climate change events

Bachelor of Science graduate Elise Legarth hopes her PhD in flood forecasting and hydrometeorology in…


Engineering for Samoa's renewable energy efforts

Before he had even started university study, Tiotio Lockington knew he wanted to contribute to…

Waikato event connects to COP26 and climate change crisis

The climate change crisis is something that keeps Associate Professor Tom Roa awake at night.

Momentum builds for ambitious decarbonisation plan

The University of Waikato is one step closer to its goal of being carbon neutral…