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Wintec | Te Pūkenga Engineering and Industrial Design kaimahi fired up on sustainability

Energy Engineering ākonga with Joseph Gentilcore (3rd from left), Matt Foulkes (Centre left) and Murray Laird (Centre right), alongside the sustainable energy generating units (Mini-Hydro electric / Vertical Axis Aerogenerators with Solar Panel), that the team are planning to integrate into the Sustainable Engineering and Energy Education programme.  

Mechanical engineering tutors at Wintec |Te Pūkenga, Matt Foulkes and Joseph Gentilcore, have long enjoyed chats about sustainability and the environmental side of engineering. But recently they have supercharged their interest, embarking on a multipronged mission to improve sustainability across our Wintec campuses. 

It started with an initiative to raise awareness around recycling on the Rotokauri campus and find out what actually happens to the campus’ waste. Matt contacted Hamilton City Council, and they took a tour of the refuse transfer station back in May. 

Joseph was surprised by the impact of the trip, “it really opened our eyes to see how much of our waste ends up in landfill because it's all contaminated.”

Since that first trip, they have been gaining momentum, going at the sustainability challenge from all angles. The duo have taken ākonga (students) back to tour the refuse transfer station, and also taken the pūkaha (engineering) ākonga to visit SaveBoard NZ to see their industrial operation recycling consumer plastics here in Kirikiriroa. 

Mechanical Engineering Project and Design ākonga (students) taken with Belinda Goodwin Kirikiriroa / Hamilton City Council (HCC), Sustainable Resource Recovery Education Advisor, in the HCC Education Room at the EnviroWaste sorting factility on Sunshine Ave.

After realising the recycling bins on campus weren’t being used as well as they could be, Matt and his engineering design students have been working to design an improved recycling unit and more sustainable practices.

The duo have also been engaging with other centres across the campus, and the on-site contract catering service Cater Plus, to find out what is already happening and look for other opportunities for the engineering team and their students to add value. 

“Marco from hospitality explained to us what they do with their food waste, sending much of it to charitable organisations, and how they're pushing their supply chains to get more compostable and recyclable packaging. He also talked about some of the barriers you need to overcome to be able to do this,” said Matt.

When they talked to the vet nursing team, they heard how the Joinery department had changed the timber they use for students to be untreated, allowing it to be processed and used by vet nursing for animal bedding, and effectively eliminating a waste stream. They also came away with some great projects the CEID team and their students could help with, including helping them set up to grow microgreens for the animals. 

They reached out to the Te Pūkenga property team to get some statistics around the volume of waste generated on our campuses and what our energy consumption is.

Joseph has taken the energy consumption data to his Energy class and they are doing an energy audit for the Rotokauri campus, looking at where there's areas of high usage and making suggestions for how we could save energy.

“We've got loads of ideas,” said Joseph “but one of the main ones is to do a study to see how much it would cost and what an efficient payback period would be on solar panels, to utilise all the dead space of the roofs here. We have a vision of integrating modern renewable energy systems onto campus to have a completely closed loop system, and ultimately creating an exemplar campus for what could be done.”

Matt and Joseph, along with Murray Laird, Operations Support Technician, are even delving into where hydrogen could fit into their vision, and the potential to gain funding for a research project around hydrogen. “We've got a gas lab on campus and we’re already training gas fitters and plumbers, so we think there’s opportunity to get into that space as well,” said Matt.

Matt, Joseph and Murray are fired up on sustainability. 

“Everyone we've talked to in the last few weeks going around campus, is really keen to do something. And yet, because it's fragmented, nobody really knows who's doing what.” 

“We want to just try and push this forward and inspire people,” said Matt.

They want to focus on educating staff and are looking at getting Belinda, Sustainable Resource Recovery Education Advisor for the Hamilton City Council to come and do a talk for staff. They also really want to educate the wider student cohort into why sustainability is so important.

If you have a particular interest in sustainability or an idea for a project the Wintec | Te Pūkenga CEID team could use as a project or teaching tool for their students, please reach out to  

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