Gray’s in China – Part 1
3D & Product students travelled to China to participate in a design competition & event
The 10-day British Council event saw selected students and tutors from six UK universities, three East Asian universities and nine Chinese universities work collaboratively in teams of three to design objects with a positive social function using industry leftovers in Wuxi, China.
Fourth year students Debbie Neish and Helen McILwrick traveled with course leader Daniel Sutherland to participate in the event, they were placed into teams with Chinese students and tutors, they were tasked with producing a number of designs trying to create a social impact using randomly assigned industrial offcut materials.
Debbie said: “Before we went out, I think we were quite worried about the standard of the other students – we felt that they would all be amazing but actually it was a really level playing field and I think we gave a good account of ourselves.”
The participants from outwith Wuxi were taken on tours of the local area, visiting the older and newer parts of the city, taking in the local culture and drawing inspiration from the environment and community they were designing for. Designing for a social outcome for a culture that they were not familiar with presented some unique challenges which the Chinese students helped them navigate.
“The additional challenge we faced was that our teammates spoke very little English so we had to really think about how we were communicating our ideas and also that we were designing for communities that we were only learning about when we were there.”
Daniel and Debbie working with their Chinese teammate developed an initial design to create floating vegetable planters to create a self sustaining space for food production, the design had one crucial flaw, it sank.
This setback focussed the team to produce another range of designs completely different from the initial concept, the first a range of sensory children’s toys ranging from rattles and rain sticks to a foam throwing dart and secondly a hanging chair.
After the change of direction the team were under the clock to get the their designs completed and tested.
They were then required to present the projects including the research and development process to a panel of judges, with several awards up for grabs it was crucial that the presentations were flawless.
The two teams with Gray’s student achieved a great outcome winning three of the available awards including the Best Innovation, Best Use of Materials and Best Environmental Application awards for their work.
Debbie said: “I was very happy with the awards we received, it was just the icing on the cake of a fantastic couple of weeks. The people from all universities were amazing and it was great to work with a completely different range of students especially having to work hard on the communication aspect of the project.
3D Design course leader Daniel said: “The products and objects that were produced had to have a positive social impact – it wasn’t enough for us just to look at creating something useful, it had to contribute something to society as well which added another layer to the project and really helped the students push their ideas forward.
He added: “I see this as having been a vital experience, it changed how the students were looking at their work and indeed their understanding of how professional they had become as designers whilst at Gray’s.
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