Week 6: Workshopping

My sixth week at the Umeå Institute of Design started with the good news that the school has again been awarded 'Best Design Education of the Americas and Europe' by the Red Dot Institute for the current year. What a privilege it is to be studying here! The school all bought us free candy to celebrate. But more candy in different form was still to come for this week was going to be workshop week.

A section of the wood workshop. The smell of this place is otherworldly.

A section of the wood workshop. The smell of this place is otherworldly.

The workshops are equipped with fascinating machines that I have no recollection of seeing before. The wood and metal workshop is dominated by huge milling and sawing machines. Then there's the paint workshop with its own mixing shelf and pressured spray paint room. And the interaction workshop filled with all kind of electronic goodness and it's own little library!

Mixing one component colours in the paint workshop according to a RAL specification.

Mixing one component colours in the paint workshop according to a RAL specification.

We're all having a lot of fun in our protective clothing. Not the the paint stirring shelf in the background.

We're all having a lot of fun in our protective clothing. Not the the paint stirring shelf in the background.

Since last year the workshop courses were shortened slightly to teach us the basics of the machines and materials. We will still have the option of learning more as we progress during the year. Attending the courses is mandatory as the workshop license is a prerequisite for us to use the machines safely. The week was split into woodworking, paint and vacuum forming courses. Thinking back I had no idea such a thing as vacuum forming even existed before this week. Given my software engineering background I found myself to be the only person never to have spray painted, vacuum formed, or worked with huge bandsaw machines before. Not that it mattered. The instructors did a fabulous job in explaining all the techniques in a simple and understandable way. And I got great help from my colleagues when I needed it.

The most deadly of all machines in the workshop. Okay, maybe deadly is pushing it. But I shall refer to this contraption as the finger grater from now on.

The most deadly of all machines in the workshop. Okay, maybe deadly is pushing it. But I shall refer to this contraption as the finger grater from now on.

I'll spare you the details of what exactly we were doing in each course. It wasn't anything really worth speaking about. For me the most important thing to have learned is to have a healthy dose of respect towards the machines. And I don't feel intimidated by them anymore.

The vacuum former was built by former students and is one hell of a machine.

The vacuum former was built by former students and is one hell of a machine.

Emily's wooden 'crystals' in the vacuum former. 

Emily's wooden 'crystals' in the vacuum former. 

Amazing dial for a metal chainsaw from West Germany in the sixties.

Amazing dial for a metal chainsaw from West Germany in the sixties.

The interaction workshop itself has a large quantity of all kinds of repurposed gadgets and materials to use. There's even a wish list of gadgets that aren't available. There's also a plethora of Arduino boards, shields and sensors for us to play with. Using one of the four soldering stations we can actually build just about anything we can dream up. I have definitely warmed to the idea of making a few christmas presents myself.

The interaction workshop and all of it's organised creative chaos that makes this place great.

The interaction workshop and all of it's organised creative chaos that makes this place great.