When most people think of technology, iPhones and laptops may come to mind. But what about a canoe? Or a longhouse?

That's the question University of Saskatchewan Engineering professor Sean Maw is asking.

This fall, he's using the engineering concepts behind kayaks, tipis and travois in his courses.

"It's long overdue, I think, that we bring in some excellent examples of First Nations history into engineering," he said.

Maw told Saskatoon Morning's Leisha Grebinski that there's a lot that engineers can learn from First Nations design. For example, the designs of boats changed dramatically due to what kind of water conditions were being used and availability of local supplies.

"The design of watercraft across Canada by Canada's indigenous peoples is a wonderful example of design," he said. You look at the canoes in Ontario and Quebec, the kayaks in northern Canada, the dugouts on the west coast and even the bull boats on the prairies, they're all excellent examples of engineering design."

Maw said the examples are incorporated into classes seamlessly, rather than having a specific unit about aboriginal design.

Ultimately, Maw would like to see more academic work done on the history of indigenous design and is working to get that set up at the U of S, with an eye towards creating a text book.

"We're actually looking to recruit a PhD student who will document, as their PhD thesis, the technological history of Canada's first peoples," he said.

Maw is also working with education students to incorporate First Nations concepts into K-12 classes.