Making Waves Clean Tech Challenge

The Cause

The Making Waves Clean Tech Challenge is a 24-hour challenge that engages students of different disciplines to create an innovative solution that has the potential to have a real and direct sustainable impact on Calgary communities. Students are tasked with converting unused spaces (abandoned, vacant, and derelict areas) into an economic, social, and environmental value space for communities.

A pilot implementation was hosted in November 2014 at Mount Royal University. 16 student participants were split into teams of four, to work overnight at the campus on strategically implementable solutions to challenges in the area of unused community spaces. The students used their personal skills, creativity, and knowledge to work together in generating and developing a well-rounded idea.

Each team was assigned an unused space and a distinct problem from one of 6 pre-selected communities. The students were then tasked to find an innovative, implementable solution for their particular community.

For the duration of the challenge, students from disciplines of marketing, geology, interior design, and entrepreneurship were given coffee and food breaks, mentor guidance (professors, entrepreneurs, alumni, coordinators, and industry representatives), stress tests, and collaboration periods called “Milestones” to help them improve and refine their community ideas into a single cohesive strategy.

Once the 24-hour portion of the challenge came to a close, students pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. These judges chose the most innovative and implementable ideas based on the following criteria: strong community involvement, most innovative design, feasible concept, and strategically innovative solution. The audience then had the opportunity to select the applicable team for a people’s choice award.

In November 2015, this challenge will be expanded to include participation of 6 additional business schools in Calgary. As a result, this event will become inter-institutional, focusing on collaboration rather than competition.

Who Will it Benefit?

The community challenges addressed by this event are crowd sourced through collaborative engagement of 70+ community associations in Calgary, and narrowed down to 6-10 qualified selections based on feasibility, perceived need by the community, and willingness to participate. Under-utilized, unused, or brown spaces are the community challenges specifically targeted in this 24-hour event.

Because brown spaces are often contaminated, they tend to be undervalued and underused. Once the contamination is dealt with, municipalities gain valuable land that can be used for a wide variety of activities. The cleanup of a contaminated brownfield site is called “remediation.” This can result in more public parks, sport fields, gardens, and housing. This will revitalize neighbourhoods and stimulate the local economy. This will catalyze the development in the surrounding area, boost employment, and create jobs.

Many municipalities are using innovative policies and programs to overcome challenges such as variable land values, the cost of remediation, regulatory complexity and liability issues. All across Canada, cities are taking initiative in repurposing these brown spaces and are experiencing the economic, environmental and social benefits.

Using sustainable methods to deal with brownfield contamination can significantly increase the environmental and economic benefits of remediation. While some remediation projects still use traditional methods such as “dig and dump” (transporting contaminated soil to a landfill), more innovative, sustainable practices are growing in popularity. Additionally, factors which impact implementable solutions must include consideration of demographic and psychographic profiles of the community, execution costs, stakeholder support, and municipal advocacy, to name a few.

By repurposing these under-developed, under-utilized, or brown spaces, it will make a drastic long-term impact for the community. This will result in substantial economic and environmental positive impact on the municipality overall.