Young designers get career boost in free apprenticeship program

Metal sculptor Jud Turner, BA fine arts, ’95, mentors middle school student Taja Kester Metal sculptor Jud Turner, BA fine arts, ’95, mentors middle school student Taja Kester during a 10-week apprenticeship.

Trevor McClelland has designed everything from a wooden radio to a stew pot, a backpack, a skateboard, even a ring that looks like a Jules Verne-inspired deep sea diving helmet. He’s also created more conventional objects like desks and tables, but then there’s The Book That Can Only Be Read Once.

Now, McClelland, BS '16, is sharing his boundless design scope to mentor middle- and high-school students interested in product design for fun and potentially a career. He’s part of the Product of Eugene apprenticeship program, a new partnership between the Department of Product Design in the College of Design’s School of Art + Design and the Lane Arts Council to support creative engagement and career and college readiness through apprenticeships, workshops and art talks.

Working alongside instructors and alumni from the University of Oregon, the students learn about the product design profession, explore the design process and create innovative products of their own. They see how designers can make products more energy-efficient, ergonomically appropriate, cost-effective and socially responsible.

This all happens at the UO’s Innovation Hub in downtown Eugene. The 13,000-square-foot facility features classrooms, studios, a digital design lab, plastics lab (with three types of 3D printers, laser cutter and analog shop tools) and exhibition spaces.

“I’m excited about the program because it will enhance what I already like doing,” said Ethan Penfold, a junior at Churchill High School. “I made this ring [pulls a ring off of his finger], my bike, my desks. I can weld and do woodworking. I’ve also done almost all of the graphic design at my school, and I love film, too. I’m looking forward to figuring out how I can make this a professional career, not to mention having access to new tools, new possibilities, and just seeing what I can do.”

Mentor Trevor McClelland, gets to know students during the Product of Eugene kick-off event. Photo courtesy Lane Arts Council. Mentor Trevor McClelland, BS '16, gets to know students during the Product of Eugene kick-off event. Photos courtesy Lane Arts Council.

Alyson Brewer (left) and mentor-sculptor Jud Turner come together to show off their final products. Alyson Brewer (left) and mentor-sculptor Jud Turner come together to show off their final products.

Because the project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts to the Lane Arts Council, there is no cost to student participants.

With a student-to-mentor ratio of 3:1, the program provides intensive, hands-on learning. Students work with mentors primarily during after-school hours, committing approximately 25 hours over a 10-week term. At the end of each term, exhibitions during Eugene’s monthly First Friday Art Walk allow the students to share their experience.

That experience is first rate, because the mentors are all professional designers.

Along with McClelland, a designer-fabricator at the Center for Appropriate Transport, mentors include UO professors Trygve Faste, Esther Hagenlocher and Jessica Swanson. Other mentors who are UO product design alumni include design engineer Gordon Fleenor, Siobhan Mead and Kristopher Schaefer.

Parents appreciate the program’s professionalism and the access it gives their kids to “making,” from the plethora of tools to the breadth of design genres and opportunities.

“I really want her to be excited about creating something on her own and to feel confident about creating that,” Flo Hoskinson said of her daughter’s participation. “My husband is a mechanical engineer so he really got Olivia excited about this. He helps her with concepts and they even brainstorm ideas together.”

Parent Cindy Chan also was eager for her child to discover all that Product of Eugene offers.

“My daughter Shaye is really excited about fashion and interior design,” Chan said. “I encouraged her to apply for the program because now she can work on turning an idea into something more concrete. We want to help her find a way to make her passion real.”

McClelland readily taps into that young energy.

“It is fun working with kids because they have so much creativity and the possibilities are limitless,” McClelland said. “It is more important than ever for people to learn how to make things on their own, and if they start early they can really get a grasp on an exciting career doing something hands-on.”

In addition to learning creative practice, students explore the business aspects of a creative career, bolstering college and career readiness.

The Innovation Hub recently sponsored a Sustainable Invention Immersion Week where UO students worked together to develop a green product in just one week—something their younger counterparts in Product of Eugene can look forward to.