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Blending art and engineering

SAIT and Alberta College of Art and Design (ACAD) students have joined forces to develop a one-of-a-kind household appliance with a twist — the steampunk blender.

The unique machine will make its debut at the popular Beakerhead festival this week. The project fits in nicely with the festival's mandate, paying homage to both art and science.

Danny Armstrong, SAIT Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) graduate and one of seven students who worked on the project, says the relationship between art and mechanics was a discussion the team had often. He feels Beakerhead is the perfect setting to show off their creation.

"We feel you can't have art without engineering, and you can't have engineering without art. They really go hand-in-hand. The blender — and Beakerhead — is an example of that."

The SAIT students and instructors behind the Steampunk Blender.

The SAIT team behind the Steampunk Blender: (L ro R) Ryan Moore, JAmes Seigner, Danny Armstrong, Greg Ball, Cory Walters, Rob Sadowski

Why a blender?

"We were looking at household items that could be run off an electric engine or electricity," says Armstrong.

"It became more of a metaphor when we approached ACAD to work with us — we were blending our ideas to create a steampunk style of blender."

Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that combines everyday machines with Victorian-era aesthetics. The fully functioning blender embodies the aesthetic, mechanical and artistic values of the genre.

Starting with the 3D printer

The blender began as part of Armstrong's capstone class project. He and fellow MET students James Seigner and Ryan Moore planned the mechanics of the blender using engineering principles, 3D modelling, computer-aided design (CAD), computer-aided manufacturing and project management skills. They worked alongside the experts in SAIT's Applied Research and Innovation Services' solids modelling and fabrication labs (FABLab), to develop their design, select materials and machine the metal components.

In order to showcase the idea of steampunk in blender form, the SAIT students enlisted the help of three ACAD students — Dana Mclean, Dylan Puddu and Amanda Bongiovvani. The artistic students worked on the aesthetics of the blender, even blowing the glass for the jug. Because of attention to details like this, the blender is truly unique.

Despite graduating in June, the new SAIT alumni have continued to come to campus to perfect their project, which has attracted the attention of Beakerhead sponsor, Absolut vodka. The team was approached by Absolut to put the blender to the test during the Beakerhead festivities by cranking out mixed drinks for guests. The blender will also be on display at several other events during the five-day festival.

Showcasing the art of the machine

SAIT School of Manufacturing and Automation instructor, Rob Sadowski, says it's not all about margaritas; it goes back to the collaboration between the two schools.

"With ACAD being SAIT's neighbour, we have so much to offer each other. The idea of steampunk brings together industrial design with the beauty of the Victorian era, an idea demonstrated when SAIT and ACAD work together."

Beakerhead takes place at venues across Calgary Sept. 10-14.

Blending at Beakerhead

The steampunk blender will be showcased at the following Beakerhead events:

Sept. 10 The Tremendous and Curious World of Beakerhead, EPCOR Centre 6: 30 - 10 pm
Sept. 11 The Periodic Table, Fort Calgary 12 - 3 pm
An Optimistic Evening, Theatre Grand Junction 6 - 7 pm
Sept. 12 TELUS Spark and the Giant Walkthrough Brain 6 - 7:30 pm
Sept. 13 The Periodic Table, Fort Calgary 12 - 3 pm
Beakernight (Burlesque Tech Fashion), Olympic Way & 12 Ave SE 8 - 11 pm
Sept. 14 Catharsis Catapult Competition, Winsport's Canada Olympic Park 2 - 5 pm

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