Camping just got a little more fun – Meet the water-powered USB charger

Jesse Cowan
Thursday, May 21, 2015 - 8:00pm

Industrial Design student Jesse Cowan has solved a problem.

There’s been a boom in enabled gear for outdoor adventurers – Bluetooth fish-finders connected to your phone, Bluetooth speakers and tons of maps and mobile apps for hiking and camping. But, how do you charge your devices when you’re off the grid?

Jesse’s created Coast, a USB charger that you toss into the water and clip to your canoe or boat. As the charger floats and is pulled in the water, the spinning powers a kinetic turbine. The 7,000 mAh battery can charge your iPhone five times over.

“This is why I love design. It didn’t exist and now it does – I love being creative and making something real,” said Jesse. He loves outdoor adventure and noticed there wasn’t anything on the market that could power his gear with water. “It’s a step forward for people to produce our own energy. It’s industrial product design with a meaning.”

Jesse manufactured Coast himself including using a 3D printer to create the device’s shell. He grew up in Toronto, but initially studied anthropology and sociology at Concordia University in Montreal. After first year he transferred to OCAD University to study industrial design.

What’s next? Jesse’s met with some start-up incubators and considering his options. Coast won an Umbra Award for industrial design at Grad Ex and he’s entered the ACIDO Industrial Design Thesis Competition happening in June.


If you have your own wicked idea for a product or business, consider applying to OCAD U’s Imagination Catalyst start-up incubator. We’ll help you take your idea to market. The deadline to submit is May 27.

Bhakti Lounge

Bhakti Lounge multicoloured poster
Monday, April 6, 2015 - 10:30pm to Tuesday, April 7, 2015 - 12:30am

Unlocking Nonmaterial Creativity: Art and Design Beyond the Body and Mind

Join us April 6th at OCAD U, 100 McCaul Street, Room 600 for an exciting discussion with our expert speaker, travelling monk Devamrita Swami, as well as for a mouth-watering vegan feast and an electric kirtan! Devamrita Swami has been a monk for over 40 years, a Yale graduate himself and an author of several books. He looks forward to sharing his wisdom and insight with students and anyone looking to learn and access higher knowledge. His cutting edge presentations capture a variety of current pressing themes, including student life, mental stress, ecological sustainability, yoga and meditation, karma, desire management, and spiritual economics.

About the theme:

Since time immemorial, self expression has been a crucial part of human culture. From prehistoric cave drawings, to DaVinci, to Picasso, now to the era of graphic design and animation, we can see that creativity runs rampantly through the human species. Yet often we see our creativity being bound by market demands and financial pressures, or simply by a mind overwhelmed with inexplicable emotions… We may wonder why we create what we do, and how we do.

Why do we feel the need to express? From where did the creative impulse originate?

It has been said by many spiritualists that artistic expression is the direct expression of the soul. But with so much pressure and attention put towards the consumeristic goals of our society, we may lose sight of our natural creativity, and thus we lose sight of our natural selves, too. What if there is something beyond all this – beyond the mind and body – that we just haven’t been exposed to? Where can we find the means to factually express our real, eternal selves? What is the highest focal point towards which we can direct our creative energy?

Join us for an evening of deep connection with Devamrita Swami as he guides us through the realm of creativity beyond the body and mind. Also jump in on the fun of a lively musical meditation and love-filled vegan feasting!

About the speaker

Devamrita Swami is a monk in the renounced order of life with profound spiritual practices reaching back several decades. A Yale graduate himself, he looks forward to sharing his wisdom and insight with students and anyone looking to learn and access higher knowledge. His cutting edge presentations capture a variety of current pressing themes, from student life, mental stress, ecological sustainability, yoga and meditation, karma, desire management, and spiritual economics with students and anyone.

Venue & Address: 
100 McCaul St., Room 600, 6th Floor
Donation accepted

Botanica Tinctoria - Creating a Sustainable Materials Collection

Thursday, March 26, 2015 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm

In this lecture, Rachel MacHenry will discuss how she has researched and developed a line of naturally dyed materials made from organic cotton and silk. The materials are produced in a closed loop system, with all waste materials going back into the production of the next generation of dye plants. The initiative works across areas as diverse as traditional agriculture, fair trade and contemporary design. Bringing together current ideas about environmentalism, contemporary scientific research and information gathered from the historical record, the project highlights the best of new and old methodologies in the creation of a range of contemporary design products. Rachel MacHenry is a textile designer and educator whose practice focuses on sustainability issues and artisan production.

Venue & Address: 
Room 530 - 100 McCaul

grOCAD grows green to support sustainability

Photo of multiple plants

A group of art and design activists, the cleverly named grOCAD includes OCAD University students, faculty and administrators. The student union-funded group hosts workshops and lectures to promote and support community building around issues of urban sustainability. Member Tom Doughty, a fourth-year Industrial Design student, says, “We’re a community of people who take grassroots action to make OCAD U more sustainable. We work with what’s around us to make things better.”

What grOCAD members work with most often are plants. “The idea is that our environment can only be improved by creating a greater interface with plant life. Plants can be food and help to purify the air, but we can also learn from plants about how to be responsible by taking care of them and, through that, how to take care of each other as well,” says Doughty.

Since 2012, grOCAD members have organized various workshops on hanging gardens, aquaponics and window farms. Their inaugural workshop was part of OCAD U’s first urban ecologists conference and they have also participated in shows at Onsite gallery. Many of their endeavours address the question: How can we work with nature in increasingly dense urban environments?

“One of grOCAD’s cool initiatives is the Learning Zone Sustainability Program,” says Doughty. “It’s a materials trading post where students can donate and pick up new or used art supplies.” He acknowledges the “incredible support” of Marta Chudolinska, OCAD U’s Learning Zone librarian.

Upcoming projects for grOCAD include another hanging garden workshop with students in the new Life Studies minor. Some of these gardens have been used to make natural dyes. Students grow and then dry the plants, boil them down and make their own dyes, without additives. Textile arts students are particularly interested in this technique in order to reduce the carbon footprint of their work.

All workshops are open to the public. For more information, check out their Facebook page, tumblr site or visit the Learning Centre in person. Doughty says grOCAD is always looking for enthusiastic people who are passionate about urban sustainability.

OCAD U and Legend Power lead the way with innovative energy retrofit

Thursday, March 5, 2015 - 5:00am

Legend Power Systems Inc. is pleased to announce that its energy saving product, the Harmonizer, has helped OCAD University (OCAD U) lower the greenhouse emissions of their Toronto campus while saving over $20,000 per year, with a payback period of 2.6 years. The Harmonizer, a device which saves energy by regulating incoming voltage levels, has reduced the university's greenhouse gas emissions by 31 metric tons, saving 171,000 kWh per year.

Founded in 1876, OCAD U is one of the first universities in Canada to save using the Harmonizer. The Harmonizer is an ideal fit for the "university of the imagination," being an institution that teaches its students that collaboration and integration of emerging technologies is of the utmost importance.

"OCAD U has set a strategic priority of developing and implementing an institution-wide sustainability plan," says Christine Wallace, Manager, Building Projects, Facilities, Planning & Management, OCAD University. "The Harmonizer will help us advance this vision and be a leader in emissions reduction for the post-secondary building sector."  

After seeing such positive results with OCAD U, Legend is excited to assist other collegiate institutions with their energy efficiency strategies. The environmental and monetary savings afforded by the Harmonizer provide the opportunity for universities and colleges to allocate funds towards future educational initiatives.

"Legend's Harmonizer is proving to be a great fit in the M.U.S.H. sector; we are fortunate to have forward thinking clients such as OCAD U utilizing Legend solutions" says Randy Buchamer, Legend President & CEO. 

With the success achieved with OCAD U, there is a large growth opportunity for Legend to continue to expand and develop partnerships with other educational facilities across North America.

About OCAD University
OCAD University ( is Canada's "university of imagination." The university, founded in 1876, is dedicated to art and design education, practice and research and to knowledge and invention across a wide range of disciplines.

About Legend Power Systems Inc.
Legend Power Systems Inc. ( is a leading electrical energy conservation company that manufactures and markets a patented device to help commercial and industrial customers achieve significant energy savings through voltage optimization. Legend Power's Electrical Harmonizer helps companies reduce their electricity bills, maintenance costs, and increases the life of electrical equipment, while contributing to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.  

SOURCE Legend Power Systems Inc.


Earth Hour

Earth hour logo with a globe formed into the number 60
Sunday, March 29, 2015 - 12:30am to 1:30am

Part of Sustainability Month @ OCAD U

Earth Hour originated as an event in Sydney, Australia in 2007, as businesses and households turned off their lights for one hour to send a powerful national and global message that it is possible to take action on global warming.

OCAD University will power down on Saturday, March 29 for one hour starting at 8:30 p.m. as part of Earth HourOCAD U will be closing at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday March 28 with the exception of the Sharp Centre for Design, 100 McCaul, 60 McCaul, and the Graduate Gallery at 205 Richmond closing at 7:30pm. The campus will re-open at noon on Sunday, March 29.

OCAD U is proud to participate, and will do so by turning off all lights and powering down all non-essential equipment in order to make the most impact in reducing energy consumption. We strongly encourage everyone to turn off all computers, monitors and other related devices (if you don’t already do so) before you leave the office on Friday, March 27. 

Earth Hour is an event everyone can participate in — at home, at work, at school — anywhere. Simply turn out the lights on Saturday, March 28 for an hour or more starting at 8:30 p.m.

This event is part of a month-long series of sustainability events at OCAD University called sMarch.

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University All Locations

Crafting Sustainability

Infinity loop
Saturday, March 14, 2015 - 4:00am to Sunday, March 15, 2015 - 4:00am

Crafting Sustainability is a two-day conference that brings together makers, researchers, educators, and students to interrogate the pairing of craft and sustainable practice. Co-organized by Craft Ontario and the Material Art and Design Department (MAAD) at OCAD University, the conference offers a platform for assessing the role of craft in fostering new paradigms for production and consumption in the 21st century.

Come out and join the discussion! Twenty guest speakers will cover a range of topics, including explorations of disposable culture, conversations about what makes a viable craft practice, customizable 3D printed prosthetics, video game programming in Inuktitut, and ‘craftwashing’ strategies.

Generous support for the Crafting Sustainability conference is provided by the Canada Council for the Arts, and the Ontario Arts Council. Crafting Sustainability is sponsored by Harbourfront Centre, the Sheridan Craft & Design Program, and Haliburton: Fleming College for the Arts, and is taking place as part of Craft Year 2015.

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University 100 McCaul St.

OCAD U Recycles

OCAD U Recycles Event Oct 22-23 Butterfield Park
Wednesday, October 22, 2014 - 2:00pm to 7:30pm

Part of the Waste Reduction Week of Canada, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Initiatives (ODESI), with Indigenous Visual Culture Program, the Library’s Learning Zone and Facilities Planning Management, presents OCAD U Recycles. This two-day event is an opportunity for our community to continue to not only responsibly recycle, upcycle / repurpose unwanted art and design materials and electronics* but examines how we consume and can reuse these items. This year it will also include an opportunity to pick up previously owned OCAD U furniture !!!

Here is a list of some of the things that you can bring in:
Hard drives*
Cell phones*
Printer Cartridges
Household Batteries (AA, AAA, etc…)
Paint Brushes

*Please erase all data from electronics before dropping off these items. We cannot accept kitchen electronics or electronics that came in contact with water or incased in wood, see complete list of Acceptable List of items.

The items that work, can be reused by students, faculty or staff; the items that do not work, will be recycled responsibly by professionals, GreenTec, Think Recycle, RPR Environmental and Green For Life.

If you don’t have something to drop off or pick up, we encourage OCAD U students, faculty and staff to come to Butterfield Park and find out about other OCAD U sustainability initiatives and resources related to waste disposal and reduction practices.

Venue & Address: 
Butterfield Park
Email: Minesh Mandoda Coordinator, Sustainability Initiatives Office of Diversity, Equity and Sustainability Initiatives


sMarch Event Poster
Tuesday, March 4, 2014 - 5:00am to Saturday, March 29, 2014 - 4:00am

Sustainability month @ OCAD U

Created in partnership with the OCAD U Student Union and other campus organizations, sMarch will highlight and acknowledge student, faculty, and staff sustainability activities and initiatives under one banner.

sMarch activities will provide the opportunity to engage our community and will cover several topics including food security, water advocacy, consumption efficiencies, energy reduction and sustainability in the art and design process. Events this year include: Green Exchange, Earth Hour, Material Trading Post, Campus Cupboard, Free Lunch and Food=Need. All are welcome to join us in celebration and to learn more about OCAD U’s visions for sustainability throughout the month.

For specific times and details, download the full schedule.

For any inquiries please contact Minesh Mandoda at

Venue & Address: 
OCAD University 100 McCaul St. Toronto, Ontario

"Botanica Tinctoria"

Thursday, October 2, 2014 - 4:00am

Launch: Thursday, October 2, 2014 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm

MAAD instructor Rachel MacHenry's collaboration "Botanica Tinctoria" is having their Launch On Oct 2nd.

Venue & Address: 
Contemporary Textile Studio Co-Op 401 Richmond Street. W. Suite 109 Toronto, Ontario