On Lectures & Grades

I have a dilemma. Creating lectures and checking exams and quizzes are increasingly difficult to do when you no longer see the point of these outdated teaching and assessment techniques. :(( Probably one of the reasons why I enjoyed handling the product design class this semester. Very minimal lectures. No written exams. But students have a tangible output.

Why am I still lecturing in class? Why am I still giving exams? Because of standardization in engineering education? The lectures I can replace with an alternative, but still easier said than done due to other faculty responsibilities. The written exams and quizzes are more challenging to remove because I need to convince other faculty members (at least one; my partner next sem) to remove it as well in order to comply with Washington Accord (sections of the same courses should have the same assessment techniques).

I’m still here struggling to finish checking an exam that happened two months ago. Soon I will calculate numbers that will “assess” student learning. But even those numbers are quickly losing meaning. I am currently a student in another school where we are not given grades, but I have learned so much in just one semester. Is it not possible to ditch the grade in university and just provide feedback on student work and have them learn not to get 100% or 1’s, but simply because they are curious to discover new things?

Then again, this might be just the idealistic me speaking. The struggle is real.


On Color

A brewing interest. Let’s make 2018 #colorful! :3

This book is slowly opening my eyes to the fascinating world of colors and natural pigments. Read about the white pigment so far and how lead carbonate was used for the longest time despite its toxic properties (lead poisoning!!!) because it provides a vivid, opaque color. Zinc Oxide would’ve been an alternative, but it was too expensive that people still used lead. Fortunately, titanium was discovered! I’m in the chapter about ochre now and learned that it can be found in certain rocks!

Outside the book, I learned from a YouTube video how to extract pigment from bamboo! Now I want to try it!!! Just need to buy some alum powder (tawas?) and cook baking soda to turn it into washing soda. It’s also very tempting to buy clear acrylic gel medium to turn the pigment into acrylic paint (or watercolor, but apparently it has more components like honey, glycerin, etc., so let’s start with simple acrylic first).

Definitely something to explore next year after this jam-packed semester is over!



On Good Conversations & Pursuing Dreams

“Money does not equate to good design, but good design can turn time into money.” – Dean Tobias Guggenheimer, SoFA Design Institute

Dean Guggenheimer of SoFA dropped by our furniture design class yesterday. Sir Rey invited him and he stayed for around 10-15 minutes getting to know each student and why we enrolled in SoFA. The dean was a very pleasant man. One can sense an air of humble confidence around him, probably drawn from years of experience in the field. One of the things I remember him saying was how common it was in SoFA to have students in specialized courses (e.g. lighting design, furniture design) who are pursuing their love for design after years of putting it aside due to various reasons (e.g. money, work, etc.). This was a familiar story for some of Sir Rey’s students, including myself. I often wondered before how I ended up in engineering even though everything I enjoyed doing pointed towards the creative side. But now it seems clearer what my role in engineering is: to introduce HEED and to pave a path for MatE to enter product design and art.

It was interesting because when I told Dean Guggenheimer that I am a Materials Engineer, he became so excited that he said I should teach at SoFA! I’m not sure if he was kidding, but he seemed really into that idea because he asked if full-time faculty members in UP were allowed to teach elsewhere (unfortunately, no, huhu). But his reaction is somewhat a validation on how important materials are in design.

I love SoFA’s goal of molding designers who are not only locally relevant, but also globally competitive. They put a lot of emphasis on developing a strong foundation on design conceptualization because they believe that no matter how skillful someone is in, say, drawing or CAD modeling, ultimately, the design will start from a concept.

Another story that left a mark on me was when the dean shared how he started his career as an architect. He said words like, “I didn’t sleep for the first 6 months… I only had one client… I had children, I kept thinking at night, “how will I feed them tomorrow?” Now he has a design school. He told us that pursuing dreams need courage. That we must be prepared to eat just rice and water (which I might experience sometime soon at the rate I’m going, gaaah).

It is always a pleasure to meet people with inspiring stories like Dean Guggenheimer. Plus, my classmates and I got to know each other better, too! :)

On Furniture Design

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Flat to Functional exhibit last March 2017 at the UP CFA. Photo from Manila Today.

How did I end up enrolling in a furniture design class? Looking back, I think it started with an exhibit I saw last March. The title of the exhibit was “Flat to Functional,” which features flat-pack furniture designs created by one of the industrial design faculty members at the UP College of Fine Arts (CFA). I happened to meet him at the 3D printing symposium I organized on the same month. I think it was the first time I saw a furniture design exhibit where I knew who the designer was. The exhibit wasn’t so big, but it was very inviting. I loved how beautifully the MDF, the warm light, and the black floor and walls interacted together. I loved how each piece of furniture was functional so much so that they are still used today at the CFA Fablab. And I think it was there that the furniture design bug bit me – there inside the Rapid Prototyping room as I was actually sitting on the MDF stool, my laptop placed on the MDF table created by someone I knew. It was somehow a different feeling. And as it often happens in my life, I got curious. How did he do this? Can I design and make functional furniture, too? I wanna try! And so I started searching for short courses on furniture design and found one at the School of Fashion and the Arts (SoFA) Design Institute in Makati.

With Sir Rey and some furniture design classmates.

The class at SoFA was taught by a renowned furniture designer in the Philippines – Mr. Rey Soliven. It was in design school that I learned about anthropometrics, classical designs, modernist designs, types of furniture by room, and sketching (a lot of it!), among other things. One memorable moment was when I completed the full-size drawing (side view) of a classic Windsor armchair! It was after that drawing that I realized how much skill and effort come with the pieces of furniture we interact with everyday! We had three projects in class, some involving scale models and one involving an optional full-size furniture. Doing these projects deepened my appreciation for the craft. What I love about furniture design is how one can integrate other art forms into a particular piece. Add light, colorful tiles, a painting, upholstery; we’re not even talking about the form yet! Or the many materials you can use from wood to plastic to metal to composites, etc! I find it very versatile. You are limited only by imagination (and money :P)!

A beautiful mess in design school. I love how we draw, create small prototypes, and get design feedback all in one session. And yes, we can eat in class, too!

I have no idea what will happen after our Furniture Design class ends next month. I don’t expect to be a full-time furniture designer, but I’m grateful I now have better understanding of the process behind these beautiful things. The ideation techniques will be particularly helpful even in other aspects of my work in academia. The fabrication techniques I learned are also somewhat empowering. You can make things!!!

During our midterm presentation.

My experience in SoFA (and CFA Fablab) definitely fueled a stronger desire to incorporate Materials Engineering (MatE) in art and design. This opportunity excites me because, finally, the creative soul inside this human shell of mine can finally come alive without feeling out of place in a college that had always seemed a world away from fine arts. :)


P.S. I’m about to start with my first full-size furniture for next month’s finals! Let’s see how that turns out! Please wish me luck!!! :))

On The Voices in My Head

Some people say that staying busy is a way to distract ourselves from issues we have within us. I believe that is true.

Last year, 2016, was a mixture of extremes. Extreme luck for being chosen by the government as a visiting researcher for their 3D printing program. Extreme sense of belonging in a co-op housing filled with amazing people who would really make you feel at home. Extreme challenges, psychologically, that literally pushed me to my limits.

I will no longer expound on things of the past, but my experiences in 2016 catapulted my activities for 2017. In 2016, I felt I didn’t have a voice to speak my truth. So when I came home, I made clear what I wanted and made sure that the world will hear. In 2016, I felt like a prisoner while working. So when I came home, I pursued what I wanted, not allowing anyone else to ever tell me again what I should do with my life, be it in career or personal decisions. In 2016, I was crushed and rebuilt only to be crushed again so many times by someone I considered my friend. So when I came home, I felt distant to people I considered very dear before I left (except my family). No more writing of letters. Hiking trips together no longer became priority. I would reach out or allow them to come through my “wall” from time to time, but there was something in me that preferred not to be seen. Not yet. I was, and probably still am, running away from 2016. Maybe that is one reason I feel comfortable in my “new” environment. Technically, no one knows me in this new project. I have never worked with anyone of them before. It was my way of starting anew. I can be my (new) self without being judged based on who I was before.

I needed to drown out the voices of 2016. Voices who told me I was weak and unworthy.

Now I have started a movement in our university and gained support locally and internationally. I am fearful, yes. But better be afraid working for something I know will give me meaning than to feel safe while living someone else’s life.

At the end of the day, I will still choose to be grateful for 2016. It has molded me into who I am today. Cracked here and there, but stronger and with more will power to leave a mark in the world by creating positive impact together with people who share the same vision.