At SAIT, applied learning often means working with industry and partners to gain real-world experience. For one group of Mechanical Engineering Technology students, applied learning meant tackling a project for a Juno Award-winning country singer.
There he stood in their Product Development class: big black cowboy hat, jean jacket and all — Paul Brandt. Brandt was there to launch a project involving his not-so-new trailer — a vintage 1973 Airstream. His challenge to SAIT students was to help redesign and reimagine his slice of iconic automotive Americana.
Students peppered Brandt with logistical questions: What’s your budget? What’s the timeline? What materials should we use? But the musician took them down a more creative road.
“He told us not to worry about limitations, and our instructors agreed,” says student Emerson Estorninos. “They told us to ‘blue sky’ lots of ideas even if they sounded weird, because that can spark better ideas. It really changed our whole approach and we didn’t hold back.”
Instructor Greg Ball describes the Airstream project as “a big lesson in creativity for this class and, most importantly, in how to translate big ideas into real-world technical process that can be built and used in industry.”
The class generated plenty of radical ideas for Albertabound — the official name of the trailer — selected by Brandt. Some suggested adding a fold-out concert stage and a compartment for Brandt’s favourite motorcycle. Others wanted to add space, either with a second storey or by cutting the trailer in two, then joining the pieces back together with an extension.
Digital technology also played a big role in the project. One group used 3D printing to make a scale model — another created a virtual reality trailer and invited Brandt to put on some VR goggles to step inside their creation.
Brandt, along with Robin Bunker, an instructor in SAIT’s Recreational Vehicle Service Technician Apprenticeship Program, reviewed those big ideas. Now that the musician has selected his favourites, there are plans for RV apprentices to undertake the restoration.
Brandt says he’s extremely happy with how it’s all rolling out. “As a Calgarian, it makes me proud to see the work that’s being done here. It’s been really exciting to see the trailer come alive with the help of these students.” He envisions using the trailer as a story-telling and community gathering space that reflects Alberta’s history and the values in his hit song Alberta Bound.
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