Trail Campus a Hub of Innovation and Design

April 10, 2024
DFAB Story from Trail Times Kailey Allen

Story/photos by Trail Times reporter Sheri Regnier. This content first appeared in the Trail Times on April 5, 2024. Selkirk College is grateful for the ongoing support of regional media.

There’s a hub of innovative learning going on at Selkirk College in downtown Trail, especially since the college bought the building from the regional district for $1 in June 2022.

Visitors to the Helena Street campus may have noticed intricately crafted designs on display along the main floor such as an eye-catching lounge-style chair, ceiling and floor lights, and coffee tables.

Clearly, there’s something special about these modern designs.

The question is, “Who made them?”

Turns out, these inventive designs come from students enrolled in the two-year Digital Fabrication & Design Diploma Program, which runs Monday to Thursday, 9 am to 3 pm.

“There is some amazing stuff happening here in Trail, and we are super excited about this program and the future of manufacturing and fabricating in the Kootenay region,” began Kailey Allan, instructor, B. Eng. “No other program is doing what we do.”

Half of the students’ time is spent in the campus makerspace, taking in lectures and applying lessons in hands-on workshops.

Students learn about design through sophisticated software before sending digital files to their own 3D printer to create design prototypes. In fact, each student is tasked with building their own 3D printer from scratch, which they can modify throughout the program and take home when they graduate.

“I think one of the biggest strengths of this program is that our students come out of it being more generalists than specialists, and we see the advantage of that: they have the ability to problem solve, so they can walk into any facility, whether it’s a dental clinic doing 3D printing, a healthcare setting or mass timber,” Allan explains.

“For us that is key; if you can learn to think critically, problem solve and collaborate with various team members, and stakeholders from different disciplines, then we think you can jump into any industry and apply the fundamental skills that we are teaching.”

Turning Thoughts Into Action

The other 50 per cent of the program happens in the Selkirk Technology Access Centre on Highway Drive, in Glenmerry (formerly MIDAS Fab Lab).

DFAB Story from Trail Times at Computer
Digital Fabrication & Design Program instructor Kailey Allan works on 3D printer at the Trail Campus where the innovative program is offered. (photos by Sheri Regnier/Trail Times)

The centre is described as a “one-stop” shop to access advanced manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printers and scanners, CNC machines (computer numerical control), laser cutters, sensor technology, multi-spectral and thermal imagery acquisition, and much more.

“We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Selkirk Technology Access Centre, it’s actually a really beautiful relationship,” Allan explains. “The Selkirk Technology Access Centre is meant to serve businesses in the community by giving them access to technology.”

Merging industry and local businesses with students of digital design can create synergistic opportunities and innovative solutions.

“So we get this beautiful mix of research and real-life, it’s an amazing learning experience for the students.”

For example, on a computer screen, Allan showed the Times a detailed mouthpiece the students were working on, designed to help a client with snoring.

“We were 3D printing prototypes for that, plus materials, so they [students] could test different designs,” Allan says. “[With software] we can take the design and manipulate things as much as we want, but again, you need to have an understanding of how these machines work.”

As far as career prospects, Allan says the opportunities are diverse: graduates are employed in design offices of local lumber companies, as well as shops and businesses around the Kootenays that are involved in manufacturing drop designs.

“When we developed this program we wanted to give students the opportunity to choose what they wanted to do, we didn’t want to funnel them into a particular industry,” Allan explains.

“Our students are taking the designer pathway … Or, they are going more into operator/fabricator roles — so less on the computer and more on the shop floor — running machines, that sort of thing.”

Allan is getting word out about the program, which will start up again this fall.

“We do see a real diversity in our program, with students coming out of high school 18, 19 years old, in their late 20s, then also in their late 30s and early forties looking for a new career,” she says. “And that, to me, adds a really wonderful dynamic.”

To recognize the students’ achievements and highlight their creations, Selkirk College holds an annual show.

This year the Digital Arts and Digital Fabrication & Design Year-End Show will run April 12 and April 13 from 10 am to 1 pm in Mary Hall, located in the Tenth Street Campus, Nelson.

Learn more about Selkirk College's School of the Arts.

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