U, Design Institute play host to challenging Design Camp

Fabiana Torreao

Given a bag of materials — including fabric, foam, stockings and bubble wrap — five high school student teams designed launchers to throw two weighted air balloons into a bed of nails.
The students also developed a protective cover for the balloons to make sure they would not break after being launched five feet away from their crib.
The challenges were given to 29 ninth- and 10th- graders during the University’s first Design Camp.
“The purpose is to expose them to the design process and to the different kinds of careers and opportunities in design,” said Missy Bye, a design, housing and apparel faculty member and one of the event’s organizers. “I’d like them to leave with the message that all kinds of people can design, not just `designers.’ Design is a process and a challenge.”
University President Mark Yudof visited the camp Friday, saying life is a constant design challenge.
The three-day camp brought more than two dozen teenagers to the University campus, where they participated in mini-classes, worked in teams to solve design problems and got a taste of life in the residence halls.
“It’s a good experience,” said Bryan Short, a Bemidji High School 10th-grader who aspires to be an architect. “It’s fun to meet new people and do activities that are in reference to what you want to do.”
Daren LaBat, camp director and design, housing and apparel department associate professor, said the camp gave the students a better idea of what it is like to be a designer.
“Sometimes high school kids think that, to be a designer, they will sit in a pretty room and draw, and someone else will make it real. But the reality is that designers work in teams.”
LaBat said she hopes the Design Camp becomes an annual event, like “Farm in the City,” a College of Agriculture, Food and Environmental Sciences program for young children, LaBat said.
The design camp was sponsored by the Design Institute, a University interdisciplinary center affiliated with six colleges, including the College of Liberal Arts, the Institute of Technology and the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture.
The Design Institute brings different design professionals together to share knowledge, including graphic, clothing and interior designers, architects and mechanical engineers.