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.”

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