Have you ever wondered how to stop polar bears paying you a visit while you sleep?
As V&A Dundee Communities Producer, Peter Nurick, reflects on the first leg of the Scottish Design Relay, he’s guessing the answer to that question is likely to be no.
But for Craig Mathieson, Explorer in Residence with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, keeping polar bears at bay is a conundrum that keeps him awake at night.
It is also a problem considered by the team of young employees from the Michelin factory in Dundee, who took part in V&A Dundee’s Scottish Design Relay.
Dundee was the first stage of the national project, which will travel to five other parts of Scotland over the next seven months, celebrating the country’s unique design heritage.
In each location, a team of young people will study a design object with a connection to their local area before being asked to create a new prototype that will be displayed in V&A Dundee when the museum opens next year.
Paying tribute to the city’s history of exploration, RRS Discovery was chosen to be the Dundee inspiration object. And helping the young people with their design was Kevin Fox, founder of the Dundee-based luxury luggage company LAT_56.
On the first day of the relay Craig to spoke about the equipment he uses while trekking through the snow and temperatures as low as -60°C. As well as learning about the techniques used to survive such extreme conditions, the team were also introduced to the dangers of polar bears.
Craig, who aged 12 decided he was going to be an explorer after reading about the British Antarctic Expedition led by Captain Robert Falcon Scott, comes across the huge creatures when on journeys through the wilderness in Greenland.
So the Dundee design team decided to set about creating something to help keep explorers like Craig safe in their tents at night. They started by looking at bear alarm systems already on the market, and thinking about how the designs could be adapted to better to suit the freezing climate.
Their finished prototype design builds on an existing humane tripwire system which sets off a loud bang if a bear breaches a campsite perimeter.
The new design includes a retractable spring recoil system to prevent tangling of the tripwire, and uses non-conductive material to prevent exposed skin freezing to the device in sub-zero temperatures. New technology has also been incorporated, allowing for early detection of polar bears around the camp.
The first workshops, which included making 3D models of the design, were held at Discovery Point in a room overlooking RRS Discovery. A prototype version of the new polar bear alarm system was made during the last workshop held in the Michelin Training Centre in Dundee.
“In Dundee the team immediately understood the importance of the issue that Craig faces and from that point on, were focused totally on solving this very specific design challenge,” says Peter.
“We have no idea what challenges the other teams will face, and what creative and innovative prototypes they will come up with to solve them. What I do know is that the project is already highlighting incredible creativity, ingenuity and I can’t wait to see all the teams’ work displayed in V&A Dundee when it opens next year.”
For the second leg of the Scottish Design Relay the team will head for Orkney where furniture maker Kevin Gauld will guide young people through the design process after introducing them to the traditional skills involved in making Orkney chairs.
The third stop will be Caithness, where design group Icecream Architecture, which specialises in community-led projects, will work with local young people.
Then its off to Shetland where knitwear designer Niela Nell Kalra will help island participants tap into the area’s rich textile heritage, before moving onto Govan where young people from social enterprise GalGael Trust will work alongside 4C, the design agency behind the Glasgow Commonwealth Games baton.
The last leg of the relay in Aberdeen will see college students work alongside jewellery designer Naomi Mcintosh.
The project is being supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Mathew Trust.