just another interesting college post


It’s extremely difficult to think on the spot and come up with ideas in a pressure cooker environment. Today we had to come up with a research question, go out and do the research and meet back in the classroom within 60 minutes with results & conclusions…

That was all on the spot, no warning or preparation. Tasks like that are evil :mrgreen: but they’re also highly beneficial. I secretly love challenges like that, it keeps your brain on it’s toes and forces it to switch from “ah, a nice relaxing 2 hour lecture or lab” mode in to “oh shit, i have to do some serious creative work” mode. Within a few seconds of hearing this my brain was away thinking of ideas and eliminating bad ones. Once upon a time i would have been reluctant to do this task, not these days.

Picking a Research Topic

We had 60 minutes to carry out some research on campus. Car parking / traffic? Nah, too common and predictable. I’m sick of all the surveys that go round every year about parking. Surveying people on how much they spend in a canteen? Again too much work for something very predictable and not interesting (well to me it’s not interesting). We formed a group of three and started producing and eliminating ideas.

Eventually we came up with the idea of counting the number of smokers outside our new building within a set period of time… all undercover ‘observing’. The reason we came up with this idea is because it’s a real problem. So it’s nice to have stats to back up your argument.

The Research

Smokers aren’t a problem, but cigarette butts are. There are NO bins anywhere outside the one and only entrance and exit to our new €36m state of the art building. The result is a nasty one as you can see from the pictures i took below (and the situation looks a lot worse in real life);




If you’re a visitor coming in to the place, it leaves a very bad first impression. Inside, an immaculate maze of white corridors greets you. Outside, a fairly ordinary looking building with a very ordinary entrance greets you. Not helped by hundreds of cigarette butts scattered all over the place.

Anyway, on to our research. We stood outside for 45 minutes. Anyone who lit up & lingered around a 15 foot radius of the entrance fell victim to our head count. We also counted the number of non smokers too lingering around. You see congestion can be a problem around the entrance. Especially when only one door is open 🙄

In total, i counted 44 smokers in 45 minutes. So about 1 per minute. My classmates counted 30 non smokers. So allow me to make some wild estimations and assumptions;


Based on our very quick research, we reckon about 440 cigarette butts are being thrown outside the entrance daily. 2200 per week. At present, let me remind you, there are NO bins anywhere near the entrance. So there’s also quite a bit of rubbish (cups, wrappers etc…) being dumped.

It’s obviously much more difficult and time consuming to clean up a large area containing hundreds of cigarette butts and litter than it is to empty a bin so this is creating unnecessary ‘dirty work’ for cleaning staff and wasting their time. Perhaps costing the college money. Definitely (at least now anyway!) damaging reputation, if only slightly.

Along with this eye sore, congestion is also a problem. Most people, when loitering outside the entrance do so to talk to a smoker, or smoke themselves. So a huge percentage of the crowd around the door are actually there because of smokers. That’s just an observation, no solid stats to back that up.


Again this is a very obvious problem. It shouldn’t exist. Just look at the photos. The solution is to install bins, possibly seats and have more entrances / exists in the building. That way congestion is less of a problem and litter isn’t a problem. Simple.

So there you have it. Back to spotting problems in college, coming up with solutions and in this case we have some stats & evidence to beef up our case. Of course i have to go a step further and publish our findings 🙂 But if this problem didn’t exist, i wouldn’t be blogging about it… the reality is this problem and many others exist. Both staff and students spot them and complain privately or amongst themselves. Few problems move outside that loop.

Fear, too much respect, lack of interest – reasons why some problems don’t move past lips. Which is why a casual or anonymous, easy to use feedback system is needed in my opinion.

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