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Close Encounters with Science: Picks

Finding my Way by Genevieve Ross

I pondered the final assignment my teacher passed to me. It was the same as what he handed to my fellow Industrial Design students (I was a “mature-students”); next month, we would comprise the graduating class of 1995. This assignment, more of a challenge really, was optional, for bonus marks, and I wasn't going to bother; but decided to read the outline anyway.

Design an outer-case (we were Industrial Design students, not engineering students) for a device that can be used in personal vehicles, to navigate to the driver’s intended destination (GPS.) This device also displays directions to points-of-interest (POI): gas stations, tourist attractions, etc..

Just think: No maps jamming up the glove box; no need to call my husband, using my cell phone (a becoming more commonplace device), at work in Barrie, for directions home when: I got hopelessly lost in downtown Toronto, after enjoying the matinee of “Phantom of the Opera” with my preteen daughter.

Cell phones are one thing, but such a device—the proverbial “they” call GPS—ridiculous. Even I know: triangulation of a signal, by satellite, is required to pin-point a moving vehicle’s location; at least, that’s how it was explained to me. Why would such important technology—needed to monitor possible, but improbable, missile attacks; and broadcast hundreds, perhaps thousands of TV channels around the world—be used to give directions? Besides, everyone knows: a woman will ask if she needs instructions on how to get from point-A to point-B, and the more visual clues and descriptive landmarks indicated—the better. While, a man will never admit to being lost... hmmm, perhaps such a device is perfect for him: No one will know he is getting input from an external source. And if he did admit to owning a GPS device he could claim: Love of science and advances in technology inspired him to purchase the unit.


“I’ll be taking the Trans-Canada Highway around the Great Lakes, zip across the Prairies, stop for a day or two to visit family in Alberta, my sister in Kelowna, and then on to Mission BC,” I describe to my, now adult, daughter.

“I know you want to ring in 2013 in BC,” my concerned daughter says. “But, are you going to be okay driving that far on your own?”

“I've travelled West many times, usually by flying, and a couple of times by train when I was a kid. I want to take this opportunity to explore Canada and experience the unique qualities of each area I drive through,” I reply; sounding like a “Tourism Canada” advertisement. “Besides, I've got my GPS—I’ll be fine.”

I pulled into the driveway, in Mission BC, and unplugged my GPS from the cigarette lighter—oops I mean, extra power source—and before tucking it away in the glove box, I stared at it for a few moments, pondering: What would my design for an outer-case have looked like if I had “bothered” trying?

Genevieve Ross is from Mission, BC

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