Joint Project Addresses Community and Environmental Needs

A collaboration between UHI Perth’s computing students and Perth and Kinross Council (PKC) has seen laptops that would’ve otherwise gone to landfill, to be re-distributed into the community.

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UHI Perth staff and laptop device recipients

The WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) Recycling Centre at UHI Perth was granted £25k from PKC to complete a refurbishment of over 130 donated laptop devices.

By providing refurbished laptops to service users within the Perth and Kinross Council community that may have no access to digital devices, this project helps to bridge the ‘digital divide’, allowing people in the local community access to educational resources, employment opportunities, and online communication tools. It means they can enhance their digital literacy, access online opportunities, and engage in e-learning, promoting skill development and community growth.

The project also addresses the environmental impact of discarding laptops. By refurbishing and redistributing, electronic devices lifespan is extended and reduces electronic waste sent to landfills therefore minimizing the environmental impact of electronics production. The biggest contributor to the carbon footprint of a laptop is during the manufacturing process and this initiative reduces the carbon footprint of buying a laptop by 85%.

The computing students involved gained valuable skills to help them in future employment. Stuart Truesdale, Computing Lecturer/WEEE Centre Coordinator explained: “By providing students with practical experiences, it equips them with the skills, knowledge, and confidence necessary to succeed in their chosen careers. It bridges the gap between academia and the professional world, empowering students to make meaningful contributions and become well-rounded professionals.

“This has been a successful year long project where students have learned the skills and techniques required in their modules during semester 1 and applied this to their Work Placement in semester 2. Having had the opportunity to work with all parties during this time, it has been a massive success.”

Adem Ozdemir, NQ5 Computing Technologies student said: “I felt that the work placement went well and as I was able take something away from it such as getting to see how a computer-based work environment operates while also being able to learn to install components into laptops.” Akira Finisan, NQ5 Computing Technologies student added: “I'm happy to know that everyone's work was really worth it and that someone benefited from it.”

Jill Martin, Head of ICT and Digital Transformation said: “This tripartite agreement, funded by PKC, is fantastic for all parties, it helps raise digital skills and facilitates access to digital devices while benefiting the environment, our students and our community within the Perth and Kinross region.

“The environment benefits, by recycling old devices this project helps reduce the amount of electronic waste that is sent to landfills each year. Recycling these laptops also helps conserve resources, since it takes less energy to recycle a computer than to create a new one from scratch.

“To underpin the academic work of the IT courses at UHI Perth - our students are gaining not just a recognised educational qualification in a growth sector and practical skills - but also the ability at interview to evidence the impact that their education has had with their academic and technical skills. Also, those all-important soft skills evidenced by interaction with end users are a great conversation starter at future job interviews demonstrating the application of their learning in the real world.

“The funding and collaboration from colleagues across the Perth and Kinross Digital Participation Working Group has facilitated this project and evidence how by working together we will help our region embrace digital adoption, improve our environment, and produce students that have applied their learning in the industry.”

Ryan Carle, ICT Support Officer said: “Getting taught in class is great, but for me getting to do the practical stuff really helped me understand the theory side better.

“I’m glad that we have the facilities here to be able to give the students the ability to get experience working on real equipment with proper faults, and not faults fabricated in the classrooms. When the students are aware the equipment are to be issued to members of the public rather than put back in the cupboard for another group of students, I feel they take more care and are more thorough in what they do. It also gives them a little head start in their CV to be able to say they have gained that work experience in the industry, which a lot of employers look for.

“Some of the students may not have thought about it, but the work they did could really have impacted someone else’s life for the better. By preparing the device, not only did the student get that experience, but a member of the public was given a laptop to assist them in life. Whether they want to create a CV with it, or to do online learning, they now have the accessibility to do these things and it puts them in a better position to achieve the things they want.”

Simon Fraser, IT Support Tutor concluded: “I really enjoyed being involved with the WEEE Centre laptop project. It has been a fantastic opportunity for students to gain hands-on practical experience with the process of laptop refurbishment. I have also been involved with providing training and support for the new users, including an initial demonstration of the laptop, and have enjoyed providing up to six hours of one-to-one tuition to help them make the best use of it!”