Sustainable solutions: U of S to host inaugural EcoHack event

By in News

Environmentally driven students will soon be able to present their ideas for sustainability at the   University of Saskatchewan’s first-ever EcoHack event, which aims to provide an innovative approach to solving Saskatoon’s ecological and sustainability issues.

EcoHack is a hackathon-styled initiative organized by four U of S groups: the Office of Sustainability, the Undergraduate Environmental Programs Office, the College of Engineering and the School of Environment and Sustainability.

From Nov. 23 to 25 in Louis’ Loft, the event will see undergraduate students work in teams to find solutions for problems presented by Saskatoon-based organizations. At the end of the event, teams will pitch their solutions to a panel of judges.

Liz Kuley, the undergraduate environmental programs co-ordinator, is the lead organizer for EcoHack and conceived of the idea for the event when she started her job in 2017. For Kuley, part of the inspiration for EcoHack came from similar events in other fields.

“I graduated as an engineer from the U of S and was familiar with similar hackathon-style events such as ‘MedHack,’” Kuley said in an email to the Sheaf. “The environmental community is super engaged and passionate in Saskatoon, which made EcoHack an easy sell. We also expanded the concept of a hackathon, to include problem solving of any kind from students in any discipline on campus.”

Kuley says that students and administration alike at the U of S demonstrate knowledge of the importance of sustainability and environmentally minded practices.

“Sustainability is important to all of us. Our students are leading the way at the U of S, and it is important that the rest of us listen. Thankfully, our senior leadership on campus is investing in future generations and young people by making ‘sustainability’ one of the pillars of our University plan,” Kuley said.

Community partners like the City of Saskatoon and the Saskatchewan Environmental Society are bringing potential sustainability challenges to the event. Such challenges seek to solve Saskatoon’s issues with green building, environmentally friendly food packaging and plastic bag use. For Kuley, EcoHack has received a good amount of support from these local partners.

“Part of what makes this event special is the unabashed excitement that we have received from our community members. These local representatives and organizations are investing their time and energy because they believe — as I do — that students have the ability to make a difference,” Kuley said.

Kuley says that the problems the teams will tackle are purposefully multidisciplinary in nature.

“The challenges posed are intentionally broad and can be attacked multiple ways, including through marketing [and] communications, software and mechanical solutions,” Kuley said.

A key element of EcoHack is student engagement, and Kuley says she hopes students that attend are aware of the opportunities that are available to them.

“When I talk to young people about their career path, they are often unaware of the challenging, fulfilling and diverse careers that they can chase in the environmental sector,” Kuley said. “I hope that any student who is interested in environmental work feels confident in pursuing studies at the U of S. EcoHack is an excellent window into the environmental community in the city.”

Tickets for EcoHack are $10, and sponsored tickets are available for students that cannot afford the fee.

Jonah Egan-Pimblett

Graphic: Jaymie Stachyruk / Graphics Editor