Monday, August 26, 2013

Passion-Fueled Projects Inspired by #FanExpoCan

For many, the CNE signifies the beginning of the end of summer, an annual event to attend. For my family, it's Fan Expo Canada, a four-day extravaganza, a pop-culture phenomenon, a celebration of comics, science fiction, horror, anime, and gaming. (They just added a sports element this year.) As I wrote way back in 2010 about the experience, circulating in such a large crowd (this news report states that 100, 000 people attended in 2013) tests the limits of my mild demophobia, but despite the long lines, it's a lot of fun.

Fan Expo Canada inspires a lot of projects in our household. For the past five years, my daughter and I have cosplayed there.  When she was younger, she entered into the Masquerade competition. To be eligible, competitors must have made their own costume (or for youth participants, they must have a family member create their outfit). My mother is an excellent seamstress and she made wonderful clothes for my girl to wear and present. 

Here are some photos of the most recent (non-competing) costumes we wore to Fan Expo Canada.

2013: Vannellope von Sweetz and Wreck It Ralph from the movie Wreck It Ralph

2012: Sailor Saturn (from the anime Sailor Moon) and a Creeper (from the video game Minecraft)

Here are some videos of my daughter competing (and yes, I'm her "living prop").

2011 - Frankie Stein from Monster High 
(I was her mother, the Bride of Frankenstein - it was the first time she went on stage by herself)

2010 - Princess Peach from Mario (I was her ride, Yoshi)

 2009 - Mei from Pokemon (I was Jessie from Team Rocket)

We do not undertake these projects because we are required to do so. We enjoy it. It's fun to create these things and share them with others who appreciate the time and effort it takes. (It is common for strangers at Fan Expo Canada to stop each other and ask to take photos. It's a wonderful compliment.) I think my Minecraft Creeper costume earned the most positive reaction from fellow fans. It took me three days to make but the investment paid off with kind words and photo requests.

Fan Expo Canada is not just about the costumes. There are celebrities to meet and panels to attend. My daughter has turned into a huge Doctor Who fan and the two panels we attended were about making Doctor Who costumes and props. These presentations have sorely tempted me to try an ambitious new project: building my own Dalek out of cardboard. One of the panelists did it and it took him a year and a half but it looks fantastic. As you can see in the small photos on the left side of this blog, it is quite an involved and intricate project to attempt.

This is supposed to be a blog about education-related matters. How does this tie in?

Project-based learning is "hot" right now. These fan constructions are the ultimate in projects done by individuals interested and passionate in the subject matter. There is a website, called that unites Dalek builders from around the globe. It provides design plans, builders' journals and other useful tools and contacts for like-minded inventors and creators. If we could authentically replicate this sort of devotion in schools, it would be amazing.

Or would it? Or is it even possible? Can you imagine working on one project for an entire school year? How would you cover other required topics? How would you evaluate one artifact as a reflection of an entire year's work? What if the maker(s) gave up? What if it failed? What if it wasn't finished by the reporting period? Rob Emery, the speaker at the first panel, said that it's an ongoing process and that he often returns to a costume to improve it or alter it once he's discovered a new technique. His Cyberman costume originally began as an Iron Man cosplay. How does ongoing retooling and experimentation mesh with the structures and restrictions of school?

Another point to make: even though my daughter and I enjoy and revel in the praise of others, it is not our sole motivation for making these costumes. The friendly guy that made "Dalek Simon", the only cardboard-exclusive Dalek in Canada, (sorry, I can't remember the creator's name) probably made his Dalek for personal, intrinsic satisfaction. That he receives compliments from others is icing on the cake. What if you can't find a project you feel passionate enough about to warrant the time and effort it would take to complete? What if you were satisfied with your results but your evaluator disagrees? Is it more important that you are pleased with your own handiwork? Who is to judge what is a worthy project goal? (After all, the Doctor Who Society of Canada just beat the Guinness Book of World Records at Fan Expo Canada for the largest amount of Daleks assembled. The prior record was 95 and they had 159 Daleks gathered together on Saturday August 24. Is beating a world record reason enough to spend hours/days/weeks/months making a Dalek?)

These Fan Expo Canada related projects as they connect to school raise more questions than answers for me, but I know that if I want to challenge my planning skills, construction abilities and problem-solving talents, I may start collecting huge sheets of cardboard now.

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