Several people give a presentation to a crowd at the KEA Charrette. One person is speaking into a microphone.

Humber College students and faculty recently travelled to Denmark for an international design week where they were joined by their peers, community members and professionals from around the world to develop innovative solutions to complex issues.  

The KEA - Copenhagen School of Design and Technology Charrette ran October 10 to 14 in Copenhagen and saw Humber send seven students from a variety of faculties including Applied Sciences & Technology, Social & Community Services, Health Sciences & Wellness, Media & Creative Arts and the Longo Faculty of Business.

The central theme of this year’s event was Intergenerational Spaces for Urban Existainability.  

Students from different disciplines came together to work on concepts such as regenerative design, existainability (sustainable approaches to living that support human existence) and biomimicry (using strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges).  

Over a few short days of brainstorming, discussion and expert consultation, teams created a broad range of ideas and projects that were pitched to stakeholders in the local communities of Nørrebro and Nordvest in Denmark.

Peer collaboration

Adam Brown is in his fourth year of Humber’s Bachelor of Industrial Design program and took part in the KEA Charrette. One of his biggest takeaways from it was the opportunity to partner with those from different academic disciplines.

“Collaborating in tandem with Architecture students and Media Design students helped me understand what goes into working in those fields,” said Brown. “It gave me a new perspective and I think it’s extremely valuable for a designer to know what goes into all the surrounding industries and not to design in a bubble.”

Six international students smile and pose for a photo at the KEA - Copenhagen School of Design and Technology Charrette.

The opportunity to participate in the KEA Charrette was funded by Global Skills Opportunity, the Government of Canada’s Outbound Student Mobility Program.   

Sandra Secord, a professor and program coordinator with the Bachelor of Science – Nursing program, and Zaiba Mian, a professor and program coordinator with the Bachelor of Interior Design program, both actively participated in the KEA Charrette. It was the first time both were involved and they served as advisors for their respective student teams.

Each team comprised of students from post-secondary institutions around the world were given a challenge. For Secord and Mian’s groups, the objective was to design a method of engagement to help newcomers to Copenhagen feel a stronger connection to their communities. Each group came up with different ways to do so.

“The opportunity to collaborate with people not only of different skill sets and specialties but from entirely different cultural backgrounds was an invaluable experience,” said Brown. “I’m so thankful I was given this opportunity to attend the KEA Charrette and spend a little over a week living in Copenhagen working as a designer with a team of tremendously talented people whom I will remain friends with for life.”

The experience proved equally valuable for the instructors.  

Mian said, after speaking with students from around the world as well as those from KEA and its instructors, she learned that they integrate business and entrepreneurship quite a bit in their Interior Design programs. Mian said she thinks doing that at Humber could be a big benefit to students and has already had discussions in her department about other ways to give their students more exposure to it.

Developing a global mindset

Both agreed that having the Humber students travel to Copenhagen – an environmentally-friendly European city designed differently than many North American cities – was a transformative learning experience.  

“Personally, I think any global experience is so beneficial to both students and educators,” said Mian. “Copenhagen is such a different place and for many people there it’s really about embracing a sustainable approach to life.”

Secord concurred, saying attending the KEA Charrette was a positive experience for both the instructors and the students.  

“This took us out of our little Canadian world and forced us to think globally,” said Secord.

Secord and Mian also met for the first time on this trip. What they found interesting is that they have similar approaches to teaching despite the subjects being quite different. They’re also discussing the possibility of inter-departmental collaboration on a project to help expose the students to other academic disciplines.

To find out more, visit the KEA Charrette website and Humber’s Global Opportunities website.