Nikki Seaton and Dominic Gambatese Win Wonders of Plastics Essay Competition

Mari Lofy, Reporter

The Society of Plastics Engineers (SPE) presented their annual “Wonders of Plastics” essay contest. It was open to all Wisconsin middle/junior high and high school students with the deadline being February 28th, 2023. 


Nicole Seaton, a senior at Arrowhead, and Dominic Gambatese, a senior at Arrowhead, placed at the top. Gambatese won the first place prize of $250 with his essay and Seaton won the second place prize of $125 with her essay.


“Ms. Jorgensen gave out a handful of different essay competitions for her class to do, and the Wonders of Plastic sparked my interest more than the others did. As I was looking at the example writings, I noticed that I liked the ones that were from the perspective of plastic itself, so that is the direction I went, and so the essay reads like plastic is giving a presentation or a talk about why plastic isn’t the monster,” Seaton said.


Elizabeth Jorgensen teaches Creative Writing. She says, “I aim to provide my students with as many authentic writing opportunities as possible. Last semester, I shared the SPE’s annual competition and I was so pleased to have many of my students submit essays. I was even more thrilled to have both Nicole and Dominic selected as winners. Both students should be so proud of this accomplishment. They are award-winning authors.”


The essays were judged by a panel of SPE members and volunteers. The winning entry may be publicized in the Section’s Newsletter and awards will be presented at the Annual SPE Education Night in April.


Gambatese’s essay, “What did I do?” was written from the perspective of plastic. Gambatese wrote about how ultimately, it is at the fault of humans for the way our world is. Gambatese also wrote about the past of plastic and all the good that it has done.


In his essay, Gambatese wrote the following from the perspective of plastic: “I wish I could change, but no matter how many ways I can be shaped or how many colors I can be. I will never be able to save the Earth. I will only do damage when treated like this. I wish humans would understand that and use me properly. Most of all, I wish they knew how I feel.”


According to SPE, the essay had to be between 500 and 1,000 words and typewritten in English on 8 ½ x 11 inch paper. The title needed to appear as a heading on each page. Names weren’t allowed on any page of the essay; the spelling needed to be correct; the structure had to be logical; and the punctuation conventional. In addition, footnotes and references were to be included (if necessary) and the essay needed to be free of sentence fragments. The Wonders of Plastic essay had to meet all of the conditions and there could only be incidental errors in mechanics.


According to The Society of Plastics Engineers’s website, SPE is in 84 countries and has over 22,500 members. They unite plastics professionals worldwide—helping them succeed and strengthen their skills through networking, events, training, and knowledge sharing. The foundation supports the development of plastics professionals by funding quality education programs, grands, and scholarships. They emphasize science, engineering, sustainability, and manufacturing.


Seaton wrote about how plastic isn’t the monster. She also wrote her essay from the perspective of  plastic, born by accident to help humans, not hurt them. 


In her essay, Seaton wrote, “What I’m trying to say is, I’m not the bad guy here. Have you seen what is happening to the trees, how about the earth’s crust from all that mining? I’m not the problem, the problem is humans. I’m important in all parts of their lives and people still throw me into rivers and lakes. And to be honest I don’t know how to swim nor can I walk, so why do I keep finding myself in places I shouldn’t be?”


According to the SPE, the foundation is working to create inclusive opportunities for students around the world. The SPE Library contains thousands of papers, presentations, journal briefs, and recorded webinars from the best minds in the Plastics Industry. For almost two decades, the collection of published research and development work in polymer science and plastics technology has been full of knowledge and information for anyone involved in plastics.


Seaton said, For this essay, I had to really think outside the box so my writing didn’t sound so monotone. I had to add some emotion so when someone reads it they can almost hear the frustration that Plastic is trying to get across, and it influenced me to write about my thoughts on plastic but not make it sound like I’m the one talking. I didn’t think I would win, I just had fun writing it.” 


Jorgensen said she received positive feedback from her students about this opportunity. “I plan on sharing this contest with future students,” she said.