Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020 - Newsmaker

An enterprising student from Heathfield High School - one of South Australia's new entrepreneurial schools - responded to the state's recent "pizzagate lockdown crisis" by stitching a range of funky face masks for his local community, raising enough funds for two educational Australian Ocean Lab (AusOcean) monitoring rigs.

With a keen interest in sustainability and protecting the natural environment, student Angus Riessen had researched the issue of waste created by single-use commercial face masks, littering our landscape, clogging drains and making their way to our oceans.

“I knew from a school environmental sustainability project that the common retail face masks can take up to 450 years to decompose, and I could see for myself that more and more masks are appearing in waterways and beaches,” Angus said.

With the help of his sister Hayley, Angus quickly developed a "Happy Mask" production line, stitching up home-made ultra-hip face masks made from clean, upcycled material offcuts. His range of pandemic protection attire was cleverly marketed through local social media channels and, consistent with his passion for ocean care, Angus committed over half of the proceeds of his venture to ocean sustainability not-for-profit AusOcean, founded by ex-Google executive and entrepreneur Alan Noble. 

Within 48 hours, all of Angus's initial stock of face masks was sold out and he was quickly on track to double his goal, raising enough funds for not one but two of AusOcean’s Network Blue ocean monitoring rigs. 

The floating rigs are part of a schools program that teaches students how to build the ocean monitoring equipment, at a cost of around $700 per rig, while learning STEM skills and contributing to global ocean data collection.

“I knew if could sell enough recyclable face masks, I could not only help South Australians battle the virus but help save our oceans as the same time,” Angus said.

“Social Development Goal (SDG) #14 reminds us that even before COVID-19, as much as 40 percent of the ocean is affected by pollution. On one hand, for very good reason, we have world health experts telling us of the importance of wearing face masks. So, it’s no wonder protective gear is so important. But on the other hand, if the world disposes of masks in poor ways, we’ll be adding to water pollution by up to 25 percent without blinking - what a massive dilemma! 

“That’s what drove the idea and I’m happy that people liked my reusable upcycled masks enough to back them and the ocean.”

Alan Noble, co-founder of AusOcean, said he was thrilled to see such initiative from a young world changer.

“This is the first time anyone has devised a crowd sourced fund-raising campaign to help AusOcean,” Alan said. “I am super impressed with Angus and look forward to AusOcean working closely with him and his school, Heathfield High.” 

Roy Page, Principal of Heathfield High School, said he would have never thought that such an enterprising venture would be established in the very first year of the school’s pioneering entrepreneurial education program.

“Angus has not only lived out the very essence of our program’s ethos and given our students an amazing opportunity moving forwards but has helped address COVID-19 and water pollution at the same time – that is entrepreneurial impact that matters.” 

What’s next?  

With the proceeds from his venture, Angus plans to work with his school’s entrepreneurial program to build two AusOcean Network Blue monitoring rigs. One will be deployed and managed by Heathfield High School, most likely near Seacliff. Angus is proposing the other rig will be donated to another school interested in helping save the world’s oceans. 

About AusOcean 

Australian Ocean Lab (AusOcean) is an environmental not-for-profit organisation with a difference. Its mission is to help our oceans through technology. AusOcean designs, builds and deploys open-source ocean technology, including networked sea surface platforms, known as “rigs”, as well as custom sensors (e.g., underwater cameras, hydrophones, environmental sensors, etc.). Data is transmitted straight to the cloud, where it is stored, analysed and shared. Its goal is to transform the way in which ocean data is collected and communicated.

About Heathfield High School’s Entrepreneurial Education program 

Heathfield High School is one of five of South Australia’s first specialist entrepreneurial schools, delivering learning programs that will promote and encourage entrepreneurial mindsets in students.  Supported by the Government of South Australia, the initiative is helping the school to develop dedicated entrepreneurial resources, hire specialist staff and support engagement with business and industry. 

Opportunities are being created for students to take up specific entrepreneurial experiences, while the school is also identifying pathways for its young people and supporting effective career counselling processes. 

Programs and resources at the school will help students to pilot social and business ventures, and form mentoring relationships with successful entrepreneurs and businesses. 

Heathfield High will also lead South Australia’s inaugural Entrepreneurial Learning Strategy, helping all schools across the state to embed entrepreneurial learning within the school curriculum and culture.##

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Heathfield High school student Angus Riessen makes sustainable face masks to raise funds for AusOcean ocean monitoring rigs for STEM skills training.

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