If genius is measured in duct tape, then the kids at William D. Cuts must be brilliant. As the seconds ticked away on the big clock on the screen at the Shaw Conference Centre, W.D. Cuts students James Sollosy, Caleb Andresen, and Naithan Tuck were applying the finishing touches to their Perfect Desk project Wednesday. The junior-high students had designed and built a small sky-blue workstation complete with comfortable chair in just 2.5 hours. “We used like three rolls of duct tape making this chair,” said Sollosy, referring to a sort of chaise lounge made from PVC pipe and tape. Sollosy, Andresen, and Tuck were three of the 400-some Edmonton-area junior high students at the conference centre this week for the second annual Skills Exploration Days. The two-day event is one of a number of programs run by Skills Canada Alberta to get students interested in the trades, said spokesperson Victoria Anderson. The event lets students learn sewing, carpentry, welding, plumbing, and graphic design skills from industry experts and asks them to use those skills to solve a practical problem, Anderson said. In this case, students had 2.5 hours to build something that would enhance a learning space. “Problem solving and teamwork and critical thinking are things useful in every career choice,” she said, and this event is meant to encourage those skills through “tinkering and thinkering.” The conference hall was alive with thudding music, crackling welders, ripping saws and laughing children Wednesday as they worked on their designs. The W.D. Cuts squad was one of several teams that chose to build better classroom furniture. “Some students are stressed at times (when) they’re all cramped up in their chairs,” said Andresen, when asked to explain their design’s concept. “If they were more relaxed ... they could take more notes.” The team painted the desk sky blue as it was a relatable, friendly colour, and added a dingle-bell scavenged from one of the team’s socks to entertain distracted students. They also added a shelf that doubles as a footrest. While they originally planned to make an egg-shaped chair, Andresen said they decided to make a director’s chair out of PVC pipe instead. That turned into one you'd most likely see on a cruise ship when he realized what he was building looked more like a recliner. The production model would not be made of duct tape, he added – they went with that due to time constraints. Nearby, Noam Wine and his fellows from Edmonton’s Talmud Torah School had built a desk with big fluorescent orange wings. “We decided we all work a little better when we’re not socializing, so we decided to make something that would help us concentrate on work,” he said. The desk features a book-stand and a pocket for a music player. Students can flip up the orange wings for privacy or flip them down for group activities. Andrey Enjambre and his teammates from Edmonton’s Meadowlark Christian School made a mock-up of a classroom with an indoor garden. The garden features a lamp-post made from PVC pipe, broccoli trees, and a flying superhero cat made from modelling clay – a stand-in for a school mascot, he explained. “The classroom can be a very stressful place, and sometimes you just need to go outside and take a breather,” Enjambre said. This glass-walled garden would be accessible from four different learning areas each dedicated to a different learning style, allowing students to “go outside” while still being close enough to a teacher if they need help, he said. Students finished the day by touring each other’s creations. While there were no prizes awarded, Anderson said some of these designs might be exhibited at the upcoming Skills Alberta competition. Andresen and Tuck said they enjoyed this event and picked up new skills in woodworking and welding. “I want to be an engineer, so this is really helpful,” Tuck said.