You’ve stressed on the need for kids to be makers rather than consumers. How important is this to their creativity and development?
I prefer to encourage my children to engage in constructive play, and when I am able to facilitate this through being creative with everyday items I can see how much more fun they have. For example, my children recently made boats and learned so much from the process. This kind of play has encouraged them to have confidence in their ideas and the ability to make it happen.
Tell us about all the creative projects you have led so far.
I enjoy doing all sorts of projects, especially with my children, usually led by their own interests or by a school activity. For example, a recent school project was to build a model rocket — we chose to build a working water rocket. This involved making a launching platform and a release mechanism. This failed at first, but my children learned the importance of testing.
The teacher was very excited about this project and the whole class became involved with launching this rocket on the field and understanding how a water-powered rocket could go so high.
Were you raised to be a maker too?
As a child, I used to build models, particularly balsa wood planes. During high school, I also made wearable art and furniture. Throughout my childhood, I was often shadowing my dad as he worked on houses or boats, maintaining or improving them. I was taught to dig deep and work hard; I learned that this paid off in the long run.
When I was about 14 years old, I bought my first sailing boat and then needed to renovate it with my dad’s help. In my head I did all the work but now, as an adult, I see that my dad must have done most of it! Through this and other projects, I have learned that “if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well” and to take pride in getting something done well. My parents taught me this as I was growing up. They are both very creative people and I learned many practical skills that have been invaluable as an adult and father.
You build boats for a living. What does this entail? Has this influenced your creative pursuits?
My job is quite creative as I am involved in building racing yachts. This involves building large objects and we do not get the benefit of a production line to ‘get it right’; there is no “ironing out the wrinkles”. This means that I work with a team of people to build complicated parts to a high degree of precision and on very short timelines.
Some of these projects have included the Volvo Ocean Race Boats, which have raced twice around the world so far – one of the hardest yacht races in the world endurance wise. Another project has been building an AC72 for the America’s Cup, which is the Formula One of the sailing world. And a more recent project has been building the boat used by Row4Ocean that is currently rowing across the Atlantic Ocean for the next three weeks to try and break four world records.
Racing yachts are built from Carbon Fibre to make them strong and light weight. The layers are very thin and need to be placed on a mould (like a cake mould) to be cooked in an oven to make them strong enough. These are not your normal kitchen ovens; our ovens are about the size of two tennis courts! A mould needs to be of a substantial structure as it must carry the weight of the part and also stay in shape while being cooked. Carbon is an awesome material to work with, aesthetically and structurally.
My work has influenced my other creative projects as I have learned that things sometimes do go wrong. I have learned to accept and learn from my past mistakes. This is the same with any type of creative work where you need to take risks and grow in order to try new ways of doing things. A brave maker is not afraid of failure, they are excited to try something new.
What brought about your Guinness World Record attempt at building a boat called ‘Year of Zayed’ for rowing across the Atlantic Ocean?
The vision for this attempt was championed by Patrick Bol. He created therow4ocean.com event and being Dubai-based he chose to build locally at Premier Composite Technologies – which is where I currently work as a Production and Design Manager. Given the extreme nature of this task and the desire to break records, Patrick needed the lightest and most reliable rowing boat that he could get. We worked together with the team and the designer to achieve this. My favourite part of the build was working with the client to help them realise their dream. I cannot wait to see them achieve their records.
What inspired the massive paper marble run at Dubai play museum OliOli?
My oldest son was given a homework task of making a marble run. We researched different ways of doing it and ended up making one out of paper. My son took this to school and the whole class loved it because of its size and complexity. My son ended up giving this marble run to a class mate and making a ‘play date’ with another friend to build more and add to it. The friend happened to be the child of one of the owners of OliOli and he ended up playing with it at home for weeks. This gave OliOli the idea of doing the marble run exhibition and it simply snowballed from there. The design and testing took much longer than we had thought as the structure needed to be something special, but I think ultimately, we achieved the task thanks to the very talented team at OliOli!
How is a marble run built, and how does it work?
A marble run is about playing gravity and the kinetic and potential energy involved (faster i.e., steeper incline = shorter rolling time, slower i.e., shallow incline = longer roll times). The marble run was created from paper and glued together using glue sticks. There is a structure component to hold the tracks and tricks, which was made of 18 pieces of paper each and assembled into a triangular antiprism. This structure was time consuming but very aesthetically pleasing. The tracks and tricks were also built from paper and held together with glue sticks or tape.
What lessons do children imbibe through such activities — be they of sharing and team work or physics?
I often talk to my children about things like kinetic and potential energy, gravity, weight and also more advanced construction concepts such as peel and shear strength when attaching things together. As a team, I try to model listening to a child’s ideas and helping them to understand how that might look and also how much work, perseverance and commitment is involved in bringing that about!
What’s the most interesting project you’ve tackled so far?
Working with OliOli for (probably) The World’s Largest Paper Marble Run was a very interesting project for me as it was much larger in scale than any ‘out of work’ activity that I have been involved with. It was so much fun to work with such an inspiring group of encouraging and talented makers where my children were welcomed and encouraged to work alongside me.