Widely considered the defining issue of our time, solving the problem of climate change was the weighty theme for this year’s Future Prize Challenge, a design-thinking competition for Grades 7 and 8, co-hosted by the Conference of Independent Schools (CIS) of Ontario and the Future Design School.
The winning trio, beating out competitors from 27 CIS-member schools, ingeniously reimagined high-rise garbage chutes as organic-waste sorters. The team consists of Branksome Hall students Bao Cossman-Nemchin and Elizabeth Lewis, along with Upper Canada College (UCC) student Omid Aliahmaid.
After a month of in-depth research, students congregated at UCC for an action-packed day, including a final pitch to a team of judges on January 30.
“The students decided to examine waste-diversion rates from high-rise buildings as only 15 per cent is currently diverted,” says Allison Campbell-Rogers, the design and geography teacher who worked with the students to prepare them for the competition. As many high-rises do not have infrastructure to compost organics, more waste ends up in landfills and more greenhouse gases are emitted.
“We developed our idea by thinking about how to make an impactful change that could actually happen without using too many resources,” says Lewis. Part of the students’ research involved interviewing family friends who live in highrises, to learn more from their perspective. For competition day, the team came up with the idea to use existing infrastructure, i.e. garbage chutes, retrofitting them with moisture sensors (because organic waste has more moisture) and a sorting mechanism, to enable the separation of organic waste on site.
“The organic waste would be collected by the highrise 'compost committee,' says Campbell-Rogers, ‘and used to fertilize a rooftop vegetable and flower garden for all residents to enjoy, thus creating community buy-in and a culture dedicated to improving waste diversion rates.”
Thanks to this remarkable solution to a real-world challenge, the team’s trophy will be proudly on display in the iHub.