Weekly Blog

Week 1: First Impressions, March 15, 2013

Hi Everyone!

Brie here, reporting on our first week at the Worcester Community Project Center.

Before I jump in, I would like to bring you up to speed a little bit about WPI. For those of you who are not familiar with WPI, we are a small to medium sized institution located in the heart of Worcester that focuses on bringing together theory and practice to educate its students. To accomplish this, WPI has a project-rich curriculum that lets students get hands-on experience.

We are currently working on our junior year project known as the Interactive Qualifying Project, or IQP.  This is a project that focuses on blending social sciences with technology. Basically this gets us, three engineers, outside of our comfort zone, working on a project, and contributing to society.

We started our IQP adventure this past January. We had a preparatory course called  ID2050, where we were assigned our project and team members, did background research, designed a methodology for completing our project, and submitted a proposal, all while managing two other courses. Chris and I knew each other ahead of time from our involvement in Greek life, but we then met Raj. We found out that we would be working with Massachusetts State Senator Eldridge and his Environmental Liason Kelsey Smithwood to help pass E-Waste legislation in Massachusetts. Chris knew a little about legislation, but for Raj and me, this was a whole new ball game. We jumped right in, reading bills, brainstorming ideas, setting goals, and drafting our proposal. We adopted tech suite 217 in the library as our new home and met everyday. Needless to say, this was a busy term for us all. Luckily we made it and are now working on our project full time here at the WCPC!

This week has been all about settling in and further defining our project. First, we sent off our final proposal to our sponsors (40 pages of E-Waste research gold) so our sponsors could review what we had accomplished over the last term. We then contacted Elizabeth Saunders of Clean Water Action, an environmental advocacy group, to find out more about what is going on behind the scenes with Senator Eldridge’s bill. This is where things got interesting. We learned that there are other E-Waste bills being filed containing different ideas on how E-Waste would be handled. We needed to compare, contrast, and evaluate each of them. We also contacted Lynne Pledger of Clean Water Action, who knew the in’s and out’s of the legislation and helped us understand the differences between the bills. In addition, we contacted many non-profit organizations, such as MassPIRG and Don’tWasteMassachusetts, to start planning our college visits and perfect our website.

On the social side of things, every group here at the WCPC has they’re own office space. The one problem is that all of the offices are different sizes and have different furniture in them. From the very first day, the one futon became an item of envy. Everyday someone new steals it and by the end of the day it is somewhere else. We will end up with it at the end of the day and in the morning come in and find our office pillaged! It is all in good fun.

Overall the first week has been pretty successful!

All for now,

Brie, Raj, and Chris (Team E-Waste)

 

 

Week 2: Second Week Roller Coaster 

Hi Everyone,

The beginning of the week started by tying up lose ends, making contacts, and looking into the major differences in two different E-Waste bills. We planned on continuing this and start making contacts with colleges and legislators. We found out we were officially invited to attend a solid waste seminar on April 10th where we could learn more about E-Waste and see different legislators perspectives. This was going to be our first trip to the State House.  It started seeming like everything was coming together pretty smoothly for our project timeline. However, as we soon learned, the best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry…

Tuesday we were then hit by a pretty big snow storm. Last year at this time the weather was 60 degrees and sunny; this year we couldn’t even drive anywhere the roads were so bad. We camped out in the library and worked on the matrix to compare our two bills, follow up emails, edit our literature section, and work on the presentation at the WCPC the next day.

Wednesday we arrived and it seemed like a normal day. We talked to Kelsey and went over our progress and some details about the upcoming seminar. We had lunch and went into our presentation room at the WCPC to catch up with the other groups. After we presented and talked out our plan for the next week with everyone, I happened to look down at my phone and see I had a new email from Kelsey. SURPRISE! A pubic hearing will be held on TUESDAY MARCH 26TH on electronic waste legislation, and we are going to testify. No one saw this coming so early in the term.

From that moment on we started diligently preparing for the hearing. Professor Dehner, Professor Golding, Kelsey, and Lynne Pledger really helped plan what we were going to say. We need to be sincere, intelligent, supportive, convincing, respectful, and insightful all in just 9 minutes. Oh yeah, and we will be presenting in front of the Senate Environment Committee and environmental experts… no pressure.

I am excited to fill you in on how it turns out! Back to work now though!

-Brie and Team E-Waste

 

 

Week 3 – The Public Hearing

Our crazy week 2 carried into the weekend. We spent all weekend fact checking, researching, writing our testimonies, and practicing! We probably had about five versions of what we wanted to say by the end. We really struggled finding the balance of supporting strong E-Waste legislation but not appearing like we were only supporting Senator Eldridge’s bill.  Finally by Monday night we had it down.

The morning of the hearing started off a bit stressful as Raj accidentally drove to Beacon Street in ROXBURY… talk about stressful. Luckily we got there in time. We met up with Kelsey and then headed down to the room where the hearing was being held. There were all different types of people there. There were the legislators on the committee, professionals from the electronics industries, representatives from environmental organizations, reporters, Chris’s dad who is a professional award winning photographer, and three fresh faced college students.

We signed in and took our seats. The hearing soon began and we started to relax, I was looking forward to taking some time to see what the tone of the room was, hear others testify, and read over my notes. NOPE! We were going first! Before I knew it the Committee Chair Senator Pacheco called our names. I froze. We got up and sat at the table to address the committee. We started with our testimony and covered our 5 main points of what we believe would make a strong E-Waste legislation: a solid waste ban provision, assurance of joint and several liability, an infrastructure, education to the public, and the ability to enforce.

Our testimony went better than I could have imagined! All of the legislators were extremely responsive.  They had a few questions for us and asked to have a copy of our final report! The biggest surprise was that a State Rep on the committee, Representative Beaton, went to WPI! He came over after and asked us out to lunch. We had an awesome time and it turned out he was in the same fraternity as Chris!

Finally we wrapped up the day with Kelsey and hit Mike’s Pastries before we drove out of Boston. It was so awesome to pass a milestone in our project and have it go so well.

The rest of the week has been mostly housekeeping. Sending emails, recapping, working on the final report, and figuring out the next steps of our project. Next week we will be helping out with the E-Waste recycling drive on campus! Check back to see how it goes!

All for now!

Team E-Waste

 

 

 

Week 4: Prepping and Recycling Drive

Team E-Waste here to fill you in what has been going on this past week! We first set our college visits in stone and decided we would travel UMass Dartmouth and Umass Boston next week. The students and staff we talked to were extremely welcoming so hopefully it will go over well! In addition, we arranged to take part in the Ecotarium’s Earth Day Celebration and the WPI potential new student open houses. At these events, we plan to educate families about E-Waste recycling and ask them to take our survey.

This past week, we also perfected our website and got our survey edited and in motion. Please feel free to check them out at https://sites.google.com/site/massewaste/. I never thought how important the wording of questions could be. I think the survey questions were more difficult to write than our proposal!

On Wednesday we helped out at WPI’s electronic waste recycling drive. We worked with the student green team to collect 2 tractor trailers full of electronic waste! While it was extremely windy out, we still managed to be there from 12-5. As people drove up to the quad with their electronics we asked them to take our survey while we unloaded old electronics from their car. It worked out extremely well and we got over 50 survey responses! The best part happened later in the day. The WPI robotics students found out we were having the drive and came in packs! The went through all of the collected e-waste and grabbed items by the car-full to use in their projects.

After Wednesday we switched our focus to preparing for the upcoming events, including creating our E-Waste poster to use on our travels. Overall, we had a pretty productive week! I am excited to share how the Solid Waste Seminar, Sustainability Competition, and Open House events go!

All for now and thanks for reading!

-Brie and Team E-Waste

 

 

 

Week 5: Solid Waste Seminar, Sustainability and First Open House

Hi All!  Welcome to our 5th update of our project! This week is just the start of the craziness to come. We are in full execution mode right now! This week started off with final touches to our poster to be used for upcoming events. We met with Jim from the ATC who is one of the coolest guys on campus in my eyes! He had lots of awesome ideas to make our poster really stand out.

Tuesday we left early in the morning to go to the State House for the Solid Waste Seminar. We didn’t have too much of an idea of what to expect other than E-Waste legislation would be touched upon. We got there and received the agenda for the day. Turns out the EPA, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, and Mass Pirg would all be presenting, all groups we have reached out to! They presented about various solid waste topics including a plastic bags, food waste, electronic waste, landfills, and incinerators. We also got to meet Elizabeth Saunders who we have been in frequent contact with. It really started to seem like all of our research was coming together in one Seminar! The electronic waste portion really confirmed our research and we even got a shout out during the presentation! Finally, the day wrapped up by meeting our Sponsor, Senator Eldridge!

Wednesday was the first trial of our new survey at WPI’s admitted student open house. We set up our poster in the campus center and had laptops for people to use. Here is the link to it:https://sites.google.com/site/massewaste/survey. We got over 50 responses from MA interested. Again, the vast majority supported legislation on E-Waste. We left around 1:30 to go to the Sustainability Competition. We were able to present our project sustainability experts and got amazing responses! We were competing against seniors that had been working on their project since August so the competition was tough! While we did not win, it was an awesome way for us to practice our presentation and get feedback from experts!

We finished up this week by reviewing our data we collected and preparing for our crazy next week! We will be traveling to UMass Darthmouth, UMass Boston, and the EcoTarium! We also will be having another open house on campus to collect data and send a survey to students and faculty. We hope to triple our data by the end of the week!

Until next week,

Brie & Team E-Waste

 

 

Week 6– Our Final Travels

Hi Everyone!

Thank you for reading this far! Our last week on project was exciting but also very emotional. Monday we had off from school and tragedy struck very close to home. The Boston Marathon Bombing happened leaving 3 killed and many injured. Our group had plans to travel to UMass Dartmouth and UMass Boston this week and were unsure what was going to happen with the safety of our state. We decided to continue as planned and visited UMass Darthmouth on Tuesday.

UMD was very different than WPI. It was very spread out and had lots of green spaces and concrete buildings. We settled into the campus center at the table we had reserved and started to feel awkward. Luckily I was wearing my sorority sweatshirt that had my letters on it. Soon a few girls came over and told me they were in the same sorority. Next thing we knew an entire chapter of girls and their friends were coming up to our table and taking our survey. Overall we had a great day, met new people, and gathered more information.

Wednesday we table sat at our open house at WPI. This week was MA vacation week for high schools so many in-state residents came to visit. We gathered quite a crowd of families coming up asking us questions about our project, E-Waste, and WPI in general. We continued doing this and filling out surveys until we left to present our poster at WPI’s sustainability competition. While we did not win, it was awesome practice for our presentation later in the week and a chance for us to share our project with the WPI community.

The next day we traveled to UMass Boston and walked up to their beautiful bay-side campus center. It was absolutely breathtaking. Campus was not very busy due to weeks current tragedy, however we were still able to interact with many students. There were engineering and environmental majors all very interested in our project and willing to tell friends to come over and take our survey. We passed out QR codes and received many views on our website.

Finally our last event of the week was the Earth Day Celebration at the EcoTarium. This was the perfect way to wrap up our project. We were able to educate children and parents about E-Waste recycling and briefly pretend we were kids again. We spent some part of the day doing different earth day activities with the children and the other informing them about where they can recycle. Talking with the families really reminded us just how important our project was and the difference we can make.

After analyzing our data we could not have been more happy. We had a vast majority of residents supporting E-Waste legislation, over 1000 website views, support for an electronic waste ban, and countless people with positive feedback. At this point it is now just documentation and reflecting on what an amazing experience we have had.

Again thank you so much for reading and please check our our “Meet the Team” page on our website!

E-Waste OUT!

Brie & Team E-Waste