In December, we brought together a group of design educators from Kawnlen Polytechnic University, Simon Fraser University, the University of British Columbia, British Columbia Institute of Technology, Emily Carr, and City Studio to discuss how to include concepts and practices of the circular economy into education. We are very thankful to those educators for participating and we got some great feedback and ideas!
We asked them to participate in a mapping activity. The task was to choose one of their courses and map the process that students go through in their design assignment. These educators come from diverse design background from engineering technology to fashion design. Each person had something interesting to offer in the way the design process operates in their field, but we came out of it with some common takeaways and goals.
The first takeaway was that we need to do a better job of showcasing the story of what is already being done by some amazing students. For example, programs like SFU ChangeLab already encourage students to consider the circular economy model when tackling an important issue in Vancouver. In addition to holding showcase events like City Studio’s Hubbub, we need to show what is being done through galleries and social media, giving the students the opportunity to share their work.
Another major point that we learned is that there is a need for access to sustainable, reclaimed materials and for some type of standards to be developed for reclaimed materials in terms of safety and structure.
Lastly, a major focus for these educators was the desire to match their students with real challenges. These challenges might be connected to the city or the government, they could be collaborative challenges that many businesses are facing right now, or they might be interstitial challenges that just exist and no one is currently taking them on. With all of these there is a need to do some matchmaking of the people who have and know these challenges with the people who want to solve them.
The outcome of these takeaways has grown into a program called the Materials Innovation Lab. This project consists of four parts--matchmaking industry challenges with post-secondary programs, managing relationships between industry partners and academic institutions, mentoring and seed-funding individual project teams with the greatest potential for success beyond the length of their academic term, and showcasing the discoveries, prototypes, and insights established through the MIL-Proto1 the program both online and at an annual event. You can read more about the program and sign up to tell us your challenge/course here.