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James Shaw talks briquetting

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13 December 2019

After James Shaw’s success out in Zambia in 2016, we caught up with him to see how his trip has impacted his research and placement choices going into his fourth year.

While working for Community Markets for Conservation (COMACO) in Zambia, James was collaborating with their team on a briquetting machine to provide sustainable, renewable energy from peanut shells, a waste product from their production of peanut butter. While the shells weren’t working as expected at first, James helped develop and maintain the use of the machine for the community. Two months later, James was starting at Harper Adams on his MEng Agricultural Engineering degree with the idea for more sustainable sources of energy in mind.

Upon reflection, James spoke about his experience having an impact on his university pathway saying, “Having seen the people at COMACO struggling with the concept of briquetting, as well as knowing that Zambia has one of the highest rates of deforestation, I knew this was something I wanted to pursue further.

“My dream would be to provide an alternative piece of technology to create a sustainable energy source; ideally, I would want to design something low cost, particularly for the African market.”

Having been successfully awarded the Douglas Bomford Trust Scholarship for two years running, James was able to develop his own briquetting prototype to work towards this overall ambition in his first two years at Harper Adams.

However, on placement, James took a slightly different route, choosing to expand upon his skill set in a different way. Working for Gutridge in Lincolnshire, James was part of the engineering process that brings together mechanical, electrical, plumbing, and fire protection for a variety of different clients. This alternative field consolidated that James did in fact want to pursue renewable energy but equally helped garner “a lot of transferable skills.”

Now in his fourth year, James’ attention is turned back to sustainable energy sources as he works on his prototype. Positive about his research going forward, he encourages other students to “share your passion” as it may have the potential to make a global difference.

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