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Inspiring instructors, inspiring research, inspiring alumni — all linked by SAIT’s history of creating opportunities for ideas and innovation to take hold and take shape.
T’S 11 A.M. ON A WINTERY JANUARY MORNING, but this Grade 9 class is miles away from its usual Monday routine.
Instead, three students have strapped on tool belts and are trying their hand at electrical wiring.
Another group is wearing chef’s hats and crisp chef’s whites as they experiment with plating a gourmet meal.
And two enterprising youth, in hard hats and work gloves, are carefully laying a brick wall after calculating how many bricks and how much mortar they’ll need.
They’re helping to test drive SAIT’s Career Exploration Centre (CEC), an interactive space being designed to give kids in Grades 8 and 9 the chance to try a variety of jobs at career stations purpose-built at SAIT and based on programs taught at SAIT.
“But this isn’t about you coming to SAIT,” CEC facilitator Kattina Michele tells the class. “Today lets you think about what your interests are and how you could transform those interests into a meaningful career.” After their visits, students report having become aware of careers they never knew existed — but now want to explore.
That feedback from students is helping SAIT to shape programs for the CEC, which recently moved into a permanent space on campus. Bright, lively and engaging, the CEC will become one more way SAIT creates an environment that invites inspiration.
ONE OF HUMANITY’S MOST POSITIVE EMOTIONS, INSPIRATION CAN GROW FROM THE PAST OR PRESENT BUT ALWAYS BEARS FRUIT IN THE FUTURE. In this edition of LINK — the last in a three-issue series celebrating SAIT’s centennial — we look ahead by sharing just a few stories of how SAIT faculty and staff are inspiring students, how our researchers are addressing the challenges facing industry and society, and how our alumni are inspiring change in their communities. — N.C.
FOR SAIT PRESIDENT AND CEO DR. DAVID ROSS, the very bricks and mortar of the campus itself provide a daily dose of inspiration.
His route to work takes him past the sleek, modern marvel of the Trades and Technology Complex and his office is in SAIT’s beautiful Heritage Hall. From his desk, Ross has a breathtaking view of downtown Calgary — a city with a history fuelled by countless SAIT graduates.
But it’s the students he encounters on campus every day that Ross says are even more inspirational. “I love seeing people learn. I love seeing that success,” Ross says.
And his favourite days of the year are during SAIT’s spring and fall convocations, when he personally congratulates graduands crossing the stage. It’s a chance to experience first-hand their pride in their achievements.
“You see not just the students walk across the stage, but the families, the supporters and the sacrifices that have been made to allow these folks to be successful,” Ross says. “That’s a very inspirational moment for me.
“Whether it’s seeing somebody gain confidence, launching a career or making a mid-life change to find their way in interesting economic challenges, it’s very motivating for me to see these people succeed.” During SAIT’s centennial year, Ross says it’s never been lost on him there are very few institutions, especially in western Canada, that have 100 years under their belts. An admitted history buff, he says after a century of applied education, SAIT is where it is today for a number of very good reasons. “How SAIT grew from extremely modest beginnings to where it is today is significant and it’s representative of the success of western Canada. I find that invigorating.
Here we are today with one of the most vibrant, relevant institutions in Canada. It excites me to think what the next 100 years is going to look like.” — C.G.
LIVING EFFICIENT DAILY (LED) isn’t just a smart slogan dreamed up by the proprietors of Calgary’s trailblazing Virtuoso Electric — these are words they live by. Driven by their passion for sustainable energy, Gursh Bal (PELP ’12) and Kai Fahrion (AELP ’15) never tire of spreading the gospel of green technologies or pushing the envelope when it comes to their ever-expanding industry.
The duo launched Virtuoso in 2015 while they were still working regular hours at Stratus Electrical & Instrumentation. After 10- or 12-hour workdays, they moonlighted as entrepreneurial eco-friendly electricians
to build and spread the word about their business.
“The word ‘sleep’ left our vocabularies during that time,” Fahrion says. “Sleep was a thing we sacrificed, but it was worth it.”
That hard work has paid off. Virtuoso has accomplished three years’ worth of business goals in six months. The company services a vast array of professional and residential clients, earned certification to install commercial and residential Tesla charging stations, and won SAIT’s Build Your Business Competition, a Dragon’s Den-style event where their business plan was selected by a panel of judges to receive $5,000 donated by Joan and Jack Donald (MMPU ’58, HOND ’12).
Despite their quick rise to success, Fahrion and Bal remain humble and dedicated to their main goal: bringing sustainable energy solutions to everyone in Alberta.
“We want to provide everyone with an efficient way of living,” Bal says. “Our goal isn’t necessarily to knock oil out of its place. We just want to provide Albertans with a way to leave a smaller carbon footprint.” — G.W.
VITA MARTEZ HAS SOME BIG PROBLEMS TO SOLVE, and that’s exactly how the SAIT researcher likes it. “Problem solving is one of the most inspirational parts of my work,” says Martez (CHT ‘94), who was recently awarded an Industrial Research Chair for Colleges grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Martez works with Applied Research and Innovation Services at SAIT and her research is addressing some of the environmental challenges associated with high-efficiency steam generation in in-situ oil sands. The $1.75 million research project — also partly funded by Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and Alberta Innovates — has Martez partnering with top-notch scientists, engineers and faculty to develop clean technologies for responsible energy production with a reduced environmental impact.
SAIT’s students and recent graduates are also contributing to the research, which is focused on increasing energy efficiency, and decreasing water use and greenhouse gas emissions. Sharing her passion for problem resolution with the next generation of professionals is something Martez is particularly excited about.
“Arriving at a solution to a problem is a complex process — it involves sharing, learning, understanding, thinking beyond boundaries, and searching for creative yet sound scientific answers.”
Engaging students in industry-based research, Martez says, prepares them to shape an environmentally sustainable future for oil sands production that includes renewable and alternative energy.
“Canada’s oil sands are crucial to our energy future, and they are both an asset and a challenge,” she says. “It’s our responsibility to both appreciate the asset, and to address the challenges by accelerating good, evidence-based, innovative solutions that benefit our society, environment, economy and industry.” — M.W.
IN A DIGITALLY DRIVEN WORLD where virtual reality technology is poised to move into the mainstream, is there still a place for handcrafted objects made from natural materials?
Cabinetmaking Instructor Mick McGowan thinks so, but for him it’s not so much about choosing tradition over technology as it is about finding places where the two can meet.
Lignum Vitae: The Tree of Life, an exhibition, competition and SAIT scholarship fundraiser organized by McGowan last November is a perfect example. Many of the 70 entries from cabinetmakers, apprentices, corporations and skilled amateurs were made by hand — studio furniture, carvings, sculpture and musical instruments — but others married tradition and technology. The winning corporate entry was a space-age design created almost entirely using 3D CNC (Computer Numerical Control) modelling.
“Our trade is quite ancient — many of the hand tools we use are only slight variations on very old technology,” says McGowan. “But at the same time, much of the work we do today is very high tech, allowing us to combine wood with materials like glass, metal, plastics and composites to create really interesting and innovative designs.”
Showcasing the talent, dynamism, creativity, ingenuity and energy it takes to do just that was one of the goals McGowan had when he first proposed Lignum Vitae for his project as SAIT’s 2015/16 Cadmus Trades Teaching Chair.
“We don’t often celebrate the artisanal side of what we do in this trade,” he says. “Seeing where the skills our students are learning can lead when combined with their own individual talents and creativity is truly inspiring.” — M.W.
BECAUSE STUDENTS ARE INSPIRED by inspiring teachers, SAIT’s students have been nominating outstanding instructors for the Instructor Excellence Awards since 2005.
During SAIT’s centennial year, more than 450 nominations for 156 individual instructors were submitted to the SAIT Students’ Association (SAITSA), who had their work cut out for them in selecting just one instructor from each school or department.
Together, the nine recipients of the 2016 Instructor Excellence Awards have racked up nearly 100 years of teaching at SAIT — and more than half of them are themselves SAIT alumni.
In their nominations, students wrote of instructors who are knowledgeable, engaging, detailed and professional — and also helpful, respectful, passionate, humorous and caring.
Talk to these instructors SAITSA selected to receive the awards, and they express being honoured, humbled and gratified at the recognition.
This spring, students will speak once again and nine instructors will be acknowledged during the 2017 SAITSA Awards banquet for their dedication and hard work — an ongoing tribute to those who go above and beyond the call of duty in creating an inspiring classroom environment. — N.C.
Text by Nancy Cope, Chris Gerritsen, Giselle Wedemire, and Michelle Woodward | Photo by Kate Kunz