ETAD Summer Institute 2016 – Day 2

July 1, 2016 Off By JR

Today we continued our facilitated discussions about making, maker spaces, design, and education lead by two of our guests: Brandy Burdeniuk and Marc Gobeil. Brandy kicked off her session with a quick creative exercise. We were paired and asked to interview the person next to us:

  • Roles
  • Jet Fuel
  • Kryptonite 
  • Unknown
  • Fun Fact

Following the interview exercise everyone was asked to sketch a portrait of their partner, in just one minute! Immediately there was a little laughter, and a lot of apologies before pen even reached paper. I don’t know that I would have thought much of it, but Brandy followed up on this point following everyone’s introductions and showing of the portraits. Most people have likely heard the story of the kid that is drawing God…

“But no one knows what God looks like.”

“They will when I’m done”

The confidence that children exhibit with these types of tasks is an inspiration for those of us that have become much more cautious in trying new things, or things we perceive we aren’t ‘skilled’ or ‘talented’ in. 

The rest of the presentation took us on a journey through her journey from growing up in Alberta, to finding her way to industrial design, to her current work, and the intensifying focus on sustainability. So much of this presentation resonated with the industrial arts teacher in me. In particular there is an ethical element to the selection of materials we keep in our shops and ask our students to work with. The prime example of this was MDF. I still use MDF for so many things; it’s easy to cut and sand, and as our presenter noted it’s easy to get a good photo out of it. Prolonged exposure to the dust created in the process of working with it can cause irritated lung and possibly even cancer. When we recommend materials to our students for use in prototyping and projects, how many recommend MDF without digging in about the risks. I’ll come back to this momentarily.

A question to everyone who is currently teaching, how many of you have been interviewed or involved in the process of school renovations or new school builds? Hardly any? That’s what we figured. Many designers are great people, and want to do the best possible job, but not involving the people who are actually in the classroom and teaching is a massive limitation. This tied back really nicely with the design exercise from yesterday which lead with empathy and used interviews, sketching, and prototyping to get our ideas out. At least with some of the new school developments presented today, they are required to get LEED certification so at least the building is taking materials into consideration. 

But the MDF thing. We can make the building out of the most sustainable and safe materials, but the architects and designers have no influence on what we bring into the schools. So as a shop teacher I could load the place up with MDF and we’re back to square one. As makerspaces become more common in our schools, and making becomes more common in our classrooms we need to be critical of the materials we bring in. Do we just pick up adhesives we are familiar with regardless of the potential risks? Our presenter really has me thinking about material selection in our makerspaces now and it seems like our entire group was really second guessing some of the assumptions they had. Awesome. 


Following lunch Marc Gobeil talked about the projects he’s been working on at his school in Saskatoon – in particular his student guitar projects. His students work in drafting software, and CNC out guitar bodies, paint, and assemble the guitars and then learn how to play using different games and software. In the future he’ll explore making more and more parts in house rather than ordering from overseas. 

Following his presentation he brought us back to a pop-up maker space at St. Peter’s College and everyone was welcome to try to make portable speaker boxes. No instructions included. People are still working away, and the collegiality and peer mentoring is so great to see.