Where are you from?
I was born and raised in Lethbridge and went to school at Park Meadows, Wilson and Winston Churchill. After I graduated, I went straight to Lethbridge Community College to become a mechanic. I love cars and driving is one of my favourite things to do. In 1999, I graduated and went to work in Lethbridge for my apprenticeship. Then I went skiing for a season. I moved to Big White, found a place to live and work and skied 113 days. After I left Big White, I finished my last little bit of school at SAIT and found a gig at a Corvette shop. I got my red seal and then everything came tumbling down. A spinal cord tumour was found inside my C1 vertebrae right at the top of my spine. There were some complications in the surgery and, after that, they told me I was an incomplete quadriplegic and that I may never move again. I told them they had the wrong guy. I had to relearn every physical aspect of life — breathing, chewing and swallowing, talking and movement. I still don’t have any proprioception, which is a sense of movement and body position. It complicates my life in a major way. I was in the hospital for seven months and 10 days and I went skiing nine days after I left the hospital. Karate is what helped me gain all the movement back and Sensei Taka Kinjo is one of my heroes. I went back to SAIT to take mechanical engineering technologies with hopes to build wheelchairs. By the time I left, I wasn’t using a wheelchair anymore and, once I got working, I never had that passion anymore. Then I got a job drafting at a cellular communication infrastructure company and I was laid off seven-and-a-half years later. Then I moved home to Lethbridge. I’ve known Dave Hinger for 20-plus years; we’ve been good friends. He offered me a job I could not refuse. I’m a maker and inventor at heart anyway. Now, I feel like I found my dream job. So, I give a heartfelt thank you to Dave.
When did you start at the U of L and what do you do here?
I started last June as an Innovation Zone technician or I’ve been called the Keeper of the Zone. I try to stay on top of all the safety protocols that are required for the space and each machine and tool. I help organize events with the Agility team. I facilitate students in their bid to build a prototype or make something. I facilitate growth and knowledge through tools. The Innovation Zone has 3D printers, virtual reality, sewing and embroidery machines, a laser cutter etcher, a CNC mill, a vacuum former, a hot-wire cutter and a T-shirt press. I invite everyone to come to the Innovation Zone and make something.
What’s the best part of your job?
I feel I’m in a spot that lets me be in the middle of all areas in the school. The highlight of my day is to meet students, faculty and staff and learn about what they’re doing. The best part of my job is the social interaction, without a doubt, and not too far below that is the variety of tools and projects I can work on.
What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
I’m an adrenaline junkie. It leads me to push the limits of whatever I’m building or whatever I’m doing. I find my own new limits. I also like to play chess. I designed and built a mobility scooter and rode it to work 81 days in a row from the south side. So, now I want to build mobility scooters. Not everyone needs a wheelchair; more people can use a mobility scooter. It’s given me freedom that I couldn’t have anticipated.