Far & Wide — How exposure can lead to technical innovation in today’s youth

Brett Snowball
Sep 28 · 4 min read
Schedule for Day One at MakerLab 2RG

Recently, I was asked to accompany Living Labs researcher John Bondoc in assisting with three keynote events taking place at Two Rivers Gallery in Prince George, British Columbia. This was the first time I had been asked to present and educate a group on simple design principles and processes I had learned through Emily Carr’s Continuing Studies Program. My goal for the week was to educate others, but I found myself learning far more throughout the process.

Growing up, I was never without a computer. My family was an early adopter of the home computer, as they believed it was an educational tool their child should have access to. From the time I was in kindergarten, through primary and secondary school — not a day went by where I didn’t have technology interwoven into the fabric that was my childhood. Today’s youth are fully immersed in a digital world, interacting with technology on a daily basis. However, the exposure to innovative and exploratory technologies often comes with living in metropolitan areas, and therefore, preexisting knowledge of this information. Although the internet gives you unprecedented access to almost everything that exists, there still needs to be a reference point where you can draw from these ideas and exploratory methods. By sending designers and educators from metropolitan areas, we help guarantee children in outlier parts of the province have the same access and exposure as those who live within major urbanized centers.

MakersLab presentation piece for Two Rivers Gallery, Prince George BC

At Two Rivers Gallery, our goal was to expose children to CNC machining processes and give them a better understanding of the how the technology could impact their lives in the future. From a manufacturing perspective, this is easily attainable — but from an art and design standpoint, we must to look outside the traditional box. The mission was simple: give the children a working understanding of XYZ coordinate systems, and show how 3D design works within the computer, then translate that to a coordinate system which tells the CNC machine when, and where to remove material. The children were captivated by seeing typography go from the screen, to the CNC machine where their name was carved into wood. To them, it seemed magical; almost implausible that data could be transferred through air and come out the other side as a physical representation.
From my time spent with John at Two Rivers Gallery, additive manufacturing processes have really come to the forefront of my design practice. As a practicing technical designer in garment production, I see opportunities for 3D printing technology to have a place within the textile and garment production industries. From rapid prototyping of experimental weave patterns, to building dimensional forms interwoven into fabric — taking a traditionally flat garment with 4-way, XY stretch, into a new dimensional landscape which allows for stretch to occur in XYZ planes. I see opportunity within the fashion industry for additive manufacturing processes which have not been fully explored yet, and will now pursue those ideas and experimental research projects on my own. This wouldn’t have been possible without my trip to Prince George, and being exposed to these technologies on a first-hand basis.

Cryus — One of the students from 2RG’s MakerLab Day

As seemingly industrial, computer controlled machinery becomes more accessible and practical for home-use, we have a responsibility to educate today’s youth about the opportunities that lay within these machines and technology as a whole. Growing up in a small town of ten thousand, I felt a connection to these children coming from small, rural communities who might not have an opportunity to see technologies like a CNC machine until later in life. As designers, educators, and gatekeepers, it is our responsibility to educate the youth of today, and empower them to push beyond socioeconomic barriers they may face. Through education, children in small communities learn about technology and design, allowing for innovation to take place where it might not have existed before, simply through exposure. These children now have a working frame of reference to build upon, and create technologies and innovation within their own communities for the betterment of society, all because they had experienced design through a different lens. In my opinion, this is what design is all about, and I’m honoured to have spent a week teaching kids about the process which I love so deeply.

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