Bold Experiments

Sometimes, I do bold experiments fueled by my stubborn curiousity and hopefulness. I’m extremely fortunate to have the opportunities and support to ask big questions and take the risks necessary to find new ways forward.  These projects have broadened my views, made me more gritty, and helped me build resilience and humility. Here are a few of my favourite experiences.

P.S. I’m looking for collaborators for some fun, new experiments in 2018. Email me if you'd like to learn more or collaborate. 

 

 

wHAT IF i DITCH THE WELL-WORN PATH OF GRADUATE SCHOOL AND SPEND A YEAR CREATING MY OWN MASTER'S?

 

Creating my own education at the intersection of design and social change

2 STRANGERS. 

12 MONTHS.

7000 MILES FROM HOME.

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Five things we learned about change from a year of design fieldwork in India

How I convinced a stranger from the US to quit his job and join me on this journey

 

In early 2016, frustrated by the inaccessibility and rigid structure of graduate school, and fueled with big dreams of creating change, I decided to take control of my own learning. I started to design a year of learning that combined self-directed assignments across five subjects and three challenging field experiences in an emerging market. 

In just a few months, I quit my job, rallied friends, professors, and industry experts to help me design the year, secured our first partnership, found an equally bold teammate, and moved to India.

It was a year of pushing boundaries. I had the chance to collaborate with incredible people. I worked harder than ever before. I also cried, fought, and hustled more than ever before. Over the course of the year, I developed a strong portfolio of work and novel perspectives on the work of change. I learned to appreciate complexity, and developed a new sense of resilience, creativity, and empathy.


 

Could we transform our hallways to inspire more creativity & play at the University of Toronto?

 

Designing life-size, playful installations

The average engineering student spends over 14 hours each day on campus, surrounded by lackluster hallways and . Growing increasingly upset at the lackluster environment in our engineering buildings, I began asking, what if we designed a more inviting space for ourselves? 

What if the floors lit up as we walk across them? What if we hallways played music with our footsteps? What if the hallway was a mini Mario World challenge? What if I could draw and leave messages on a giant Lite Brite? And so, the Spark Design Group was formed. 

 

I pulled together an ocean’s eleven team of 5 designers and makers with a mix of specializations in mechanical, electrical, and computer engineering. We got to work, ironing out the technical complexities of a few early ideas. In parallel, we secured building permits, workshop space and tools, and convinced the Dean to invest our first experiment. 

We knew we wouldn't be able to pull this off alone, so we crowd-sourced the build. We created open, drop-in technical workshops for students to come get their hands dirty and play an active role in transforming their environment. 

A typical installation took us 4-6 weeks to design, 2-3 workshops to build with anywhere from 30 to 50 builders, and was on display for about 6 weeks (before it inevitably broke beyond the midnight quick fix repairs).

The results: In just our first 16 months as a student organization, we had rallied over 700 students to join us as co-designers and builders, built 11 installations, had been featured on the Discovery Channel, and invited to create a an installation for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche exhibition.

Most importantly, we saw students, professors, and administrative staff, all taking an extra minute of their day to play as they walked past the installations.

I founded the Spark Design Group in 2011, and led the group for two years. Now, 6  years later, Spark continues to inspire play and creativity on our campus. Shout-out to all the student leaders that have poured hours of their free time into growing our mission and keeping it fun out there.


 

What would I learn if I spent an entire week working full time as a chaiwala?

 

Life as a chai-wala: going behind the scenes of India’s most popular small business, the roadside tea stall.

I spent 5 days working alongside, Om Prakash, as a full time roadside tea stall owner (chai-wala). I’m still not very good at making chai, but I did learn a ton about the Indian entrepreneurial spirit and the tea stalls that fuel this country.

My teammate, Christopher, captured the entire experience in a photo-journal here: