Product design/development students travel to Ireland

Adult students in the Business of Art & Design program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC) recently joined Virginia Tech undergraduate students on a trip to the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) in Letterfrack, Ireland. The trip was part of Virginia Tech’s spring break abroad and represents another step in the partnership (formalized last April with an MOU signing) between the SVHEC, the VT College of Natural Resources & Environment, and GMIT.

Product Design & Development students Ben Scarborough and John Barry, Product Design & Development instructor Clint Johnson, and Digital Art & Design student Heather Chipps traveled with 14 Virginia Tech students from the VT College of Natural Resources & Environment on the eight day trip to the Emerald Isle. The trip gave Business of Art & Design students exposure to the international wood industry, and an opportunity to learn more about the GMIT-Letterfrack furniture design program.

Leaving South Boston on March 4, the SVHEC-VT group flew to Shannon, Ireland, and drove to the town of Galway. While there, they were given a tour of the city by GMIT-Letterfrack instructor Dr. Patrick “Paddy” Tobin. “Galway is exactly like what you picture when you think of a small European town. With the stone walls and ancient cathedrals you can feel the history,” said Product Design & Development student Ben Scarborough.

The SVHEC-VT group of students then travelled to Letterfrack. Located in a small, rural village on the west coast of Ireland, GMIT-Letterfrack has approximately 200 students and is known internationally for its furniture program. The Virginia students spent five days in Letterfrack where they had an opportunity to tour the GMIT-Letterfrack campus, attend lectures, and spend time with students and staff members.

“Our students were blown away by the caliber of work that is taking place within this partnership,” said Product Design & Development instructor Clint Johnson. “They are proud to be associated with the best of the best, and as our program grows and develops, we will continue to strive to adhere to that high standard,” he said.

Part of the trip’s experience was the opportunity for SVHEC and VT students to collaborate and consult with GMIT-Letterfrack students on a design project. As the consultations occurred, SVHEC Product Design & Development students found a niche role with their technical knowledge of product design, CAD/CAM, and advanced manufacturing processes. “Because of the Product Design & Development program’s intensity of study we were able to contribute real world experiences to the other students’ theoretical knowledge,” said Scarborough. “As a community college student it’s nice to know we can stand toe-to-toe with our peers on an international level and provide meaningful input,” he continued.

Fellow Product Design & Development student John Barry agreed, “The experience has given me great confidence in myself and in the PD&D program. It’s nice to know we’re not the only ones pursuing this type of art.”

Product Design & Development students Ben Scarborough and John Barry took advantage of an opportunity to learn and work with an unfamiliar laser engraver technology. They were quickly able to learn the new equipment and to design and produce a memento of the trip. “By using our prior knowledge we were able to use this new technology. We found that if you get educated in the right way you don’t have to be taught everything because you’re able to learn for yourself,” Scarborough said.

The SVHEC and GMIT-Letterfrack campus have much in common. Both institutions are located in rural areas, but have remarkable facilities and are attracting students and attention because of the innovative work being done. Like the SVHEC’s signature Business of Art & Design programming, the Letterfrack educational model is non-traditional in that it integrates real-world, project-based learning with creativity and collaboration. “I predict within 5 years people will come to South Boston for the purpose of studying at the SVHEC just like they do at GMIT-Letterfrack,” Scarborough said.

“This trip was a perfect “next step” on the long road that this relationship has in front of it, Johnson said. I was overwhelmed by the hospitality that we were shown, and returned encouraged about future collaborations between our organizations.”

The Business of Art & Design is an initiative of the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center offered in partnership with Danville Community College.

SOURCE: Southern Virginia Higher Education Center

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