If you walked across campus last Monday evening, you might have come across a group of engineering frosh tossing LED lamps onto a giant magnetic sign in front of the Sanford Fleming building. Not your usual frosh shenanigans; this was an event set up by Spark, a U of T club dedicated to slipping science into your subconscious. Called “What the F!” the event saw frosh making their own magnetic LED’s as part of Skule’s f!rosh week 1T2.
Spark’s vision is to bridge the learning gap between theory and practice. Science students often doubt the existence of any real-world applications for all the formulas and theorems they are forced to memorize, and Spark is here to dispel that doubt.
“We have workshops where students can learn technical skills while making things,” says Aditi Kumaraswamy, a Spark executive responsible for external affairs. “Our main vision here at Spark is that we believe our learning environment really influences how we learn, so our goal is to make it very motivational and inspirational.”
Spark’s monthly workshops have churned out a wide variety of fascinating feats of engineering, including Dance Dance Revolution-style LED lights that respond to touch, fully operational pinball machines, and a display of hanging light chimes.
In January, club members, or “sparkers” as they are called, had the chance to pave the floor of the Bahen Centre with giant piano keys. Inspired by a set of giant piano stairs built by TheFunTheory in Sweden, 20 students from a variety of engineering disciplines worked for hours to create a fun and engaging exhibit that could help students de-stress before midterm season.
“Extracurriculars like Spark, I believe, build a lot of the skills you need in the workforce,” says Aditi. “You learn how to work in teams, and there’s a lot of thinking on your feet, which is stuff you won’t learn in the class.
“It’s not something they can teach you in a lecture; it’s something you can only learn by getting your hands dirty.”
Spark leaders have a lot planned for the 2012-2013 season. Work that students create during workshops will be put up on display for the entire student body to see. In late September, Spark will be creating an exhibit for Nuit Blanche featuring Jansen Walkers — large mobile sculptures powered by a hand crank, inspired by the design of sculptor Theo Jansen — made out of recyclable materials.
While Spark events are usually held at the Sanford Fleming building and activities are usually engineering-focused, the club welcomes all students from the St. George campus.