Power of mentorship in 3D

Mentee Emily Lowan mentored a team of youth to upcycle 3D printing waste into a compost bin for the school garden.

Mentee Emily Lowan mentored a team of youth to upcycle 3D printing waste into a compost bin for the school garden.

This project is both about creating a closed-loop process for plastics in schools, and about changing the mindsets of students from single-use disposability to an understanding of the power of plastic repurposing. Reusing what we already have is a critical first step in achieving a lifestyle that is compatible with the new realities with climate change. For my Climate Guides project, I collected 3D printing waste from UVic engineering labs and with the help of my mentees, Sophia and Ella (from Claremont high school) and my unofficial mentor, Pat Wilkie (from UBC’s Melt Collective, a waste-to-product 3D printing club), extruded the waste plastic into filament for 3D printing. Sophia and Ella, advised by the head of Camosun Maker Lab, designed a compost bin for the school garden, which was made from wood pallets, and held together with 3D printed clips.

This project was an incredible demonstration of the power of mentorship.

 Another interesting point was that Ella and Sophia took on this project for their final Grade 12 Capstone project (as a part of the Institute for Global Solutions Program), where they ran workshops for the entire class on closed loop systems, designing products for purpose over disposability and the 3D printing process. Their main goal was to create a educational display with the upcycled composting bin (constructed with upcycled 3D printed clips), to show future generations of IGS students an innovative, cradle-to-cradle design.

This project was an incredible demonstration of the power of mentorship; from April to July,  I was mentored by the wonderful Kyle Empringham, where I developed project management skills and coordination, and from July to January, I was mentored by Pat Wilkie, a plastics engineering and specialized project expert. I also became a mentor, to Sophia and Ella, two students from my former high school.

The 3D printed design of clips using a 3D printer.

The 3D printed design of clips using a 3D printer.

The composting bin with upcycled 3D printed clips.

The composting bin with upcycled 3D printed clips.

This project was not without challenges; the main hurdle being that progress was not linear. I’m an organized, linear person- I like measurable success, guided by a set plan with strategic goal posts. This experience truly pushed me out of my comfort zone; with every step forward came with an obstruction. These complications were so necessary; I learnt to to be flexible, to not be afraid of last-minute changes and to love the chaos that comes with project management and coordination. 

            The project itself was also outside my comfort zone, I don’t have an engineering oriented brain, or skills/experience with the waste-to-3D printed product process. I fell in love with the project concept and objectives but felt extremely daunted by the unknowns and skill set required. This project taught me the power of extending one’s network, and dipping into the expertise of others. At first, I had the perception that I would need to learn every skill required to complete this advanced engineering project, but then I realized I could optimise the project’s success by channeling the skills and expertise of field professionals.

This project taught me the power of extending one’s network, and dipping into the expertise of others.

            After a follow-up discussion with Sophia and Ella, I was delighted with the insights they gleaned from this project. They delved into the 3D printing process, researching the types of waste plastic used in 3D printing, health and safety concerns with extruding plastics, 3D printing design with different software programs, and the potential of 3D printing in the future, from an innovation and environmental perspective. They were especially keen on education side of this project; Ella mentioned that, “From the start, we wanted to make something that future students could benefit and learn from, and now they’ll be able to be involved in a closed loop cycle within our very own school.”

The Climate Guides experience has really helped me develop my project management skills, mentorship abilities, technical research skills and navigating the waste-to-product process, as well as expanding my perception of what I’m capable of. I’m so grateful.

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By:

Emily Lowan

About the authour:

Emily Lowan was a Climate Guides mentee in 2018. A recent high school graduate, Emily is passionate about the circular economy. She is the Co-Director of Community Earth Project. There, she founded a Coffee Ground Renewal Project. When asked about youth in climate action she said, “The power of young people is a largely untapped resource, one that can be a catalyst for positive change.”

 

 

 

Caroline Merner