Vape Hackathon: Falmouth students collaborate on innovative answers to the disposable vape sustainability issue

02 May 2024

Vape Hackathon
Vape Hackathon

In April, students from our Sustainable Product Design BA and Robotics BSc courses came together for our Vape Hackathon: an event encouraging students to collaborate across disciplines on innovative answers to the sustainability issue caused by discarded disposable vapes.

Students worked together in small teams and were tasked with exploring the potential of recycled vape components and how they fit into the circular economy by designing and prototyping an exciting new product. 

All new products had to be designed from disposable vapes and feature circuitry engineered to make use of vape components, such as lithium-ion battery cells and aluminium outer casing. 

Competing teams had access to our Robotics lab and plenty of collaborative spaces on Penryn Campus to devise their products. Students were also permitted to make use of a soldering workstation, 3D printers and a laser cutter, among several other tools and components.  

After four days of planning and creating, the teams came together to present their concepts and talk through their products. The winning team, comprised of Robotics BSc students Will Thompson and Adam Copeland, and Sustainable Product Design BA students Kate Neville and Noah Barlow, were proud to present their concept, Nest – a smart birdbox capable of detecting bird movement for conservation research. 

To hear more about both the concept and the team’s experience of working collaboratively and creating the product, we spoke to Kate and Will about how they got on. 

Kate said: “The idea behind the Nest was to take disposable vapes, which are damaging for the environment, and create something with a positive impact. We landed on conservation as a theme and had the idea of using the sensors in the vape to log the movements of a bird in or out of the Nest, to help with bird surveying.  

“It was a really positive experience collaborating with students from Robotics. It was cool to see their set-up and pick their brains a little bit. They know how to bring concepts to life in a way we don't, which is brilliant.   

I would love to work with them all again as they had some amazing ideas and were overall just really nice people.  

“It was a surprise to win, because I thought the other teams were really creative and had some exciting concepts. It was great how different our ideas were, and the many applications these vape components could take on.” 

Speaking to Will about his own experiences, he said: “It was great that we were able to collaborate with another course. It was something that I've been looking forward to doing for a while now, as it’s always helpful getting someone else's ideas on top of our own. I would love to work with them all again as they had some amazing ideas and were overall just really nice people.  

“Winning the hackathon felt amazing as we had put a lot of effort into the small project, and it was just gratifying. I think all the teams put in a lot of work too, making amazing ideas and executing them over such a short time period.”

Other concepts put together by the competing teams included Bynt, a wrist worn safety monitor for kids to prevent drowning, and Vapour Bass, an open source, programmable music synthesiser. 

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