Welcome to the Born to Design Podcast.
Born to Design takes you inside the most fascinating stories coming out of the design and manufacturing world. The surprising backstories of amazing creators. Harrowing near-failures that became overnight successes. Uplifting examples of the many ways our community is changing the world for the better. Born to Design is a podcast for dreamers, designers, and creators of all kinds.
This first episode will take you into the world of Christian Bagg, who has a very inspirational story. He is an outdoorsman, who had an injury that left him unable to explore the outdoors as he had before. He has had an amazing journey since then getting back to what he loves, but I don’t want to spoil it, and invite you to hear directly from Christian…
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Christian Bagg 0:02
Is when I broke my back. I was then from that day forward, reliant on technology. And if that technology didn’t exist, I had to make it.
Hi there. This is the Solidworks Born to Design Podcast, a podcast of inspiring stories about those who create, build, invent an engineer, and new ideas into actual new products. And by the way, they all use Solidworks. I’m your host Cliff meddling. And this is episode number one. It’s called no excuses to get outdoors route will be talking to Christian back who has a very inspirational story. He is an outdoorsman who had an injury and left and unable to explore the outdoors if he had before. He has had an amazing journey since then getting back outside, which I’ll let Christian tell you all about let’s jump right in.
Christian Bagg 0:53
So I I started from a from the very low level of design, but a very capable level of building so I so I’d sort of battle my way through these things and make devices for myself wheelchair I made my first wheelchair a year after I broke my back as I’m really tall and tears at that time just didn’t account for height, something nice were up around my ears and and stuff. And it was a if I still had it around. It’s a pretty archaic looking thing I use regular steel is rusty and nasty. So. So what made you decide, I just curious, you know that you’re gonna design that first wheelchair? Why didn’t you? Why didn’t you just buy one off the shelf? Well, I did I bought one cuz cuz you really like this. We’ve we’ve always my, my other business partner who’s who’s also in a wheelchair, I’ve always said like, you don’t ever you don’t have any prior knowledge of wheelchairs. Like, if you’re gonna go buy a bike you even if you’re not a cyclist you like you know what a bike is, you’ve seen a lot of bikes, you’ve probably pedal the bike. And so you have a little bit of knowledge to go on as to what bike you should get. Or you know, you’re not going to fit on a four year olds bicycle. And in wheelchairs, you fall into it literally, by accident, it’s an accident. And now you need a wheelchair. So you’re trusting all these people to to put you in one and pick one for you or advise you. And like I said, at 22 years ago, given my height, and the life I wanted to live, the chair I got was grossly underwhelming. It just did not work for me. And it didn’t make me feel good about myself. And it didn’t relate to my cycling or sports past just made me feel like I didn’t want to be in a wheelchair, it isn’t a HUD statement. Because it seems obvious, but this is like that little extra kick and, and, and being a machinist and having such a strong community of people around me, friends and family. And the guy that I worked with I was I was able to sort of say like, this chair sucks and make a new chair and so it’s just a chair with wheels wheelchair
You mentioned the life I wanted. So I you know, for people listening, you know, talking about that background, that outdoorsman and venture all this stuff you’d like doing? Maybe?
Christian Bagg 3:21
Yeah. So I I was a pretty I’d say I was a pretty standard young man teenager in that I was I was fit. I was young and I was strong. And I was pretty stupid. And so like any 18 year old 19 year old. I just there was no consequences to me. which allowed me to do you know, to go caving without any real caving knowledge. And I’ve, you know, I have some fond memories of being stuck in a cave thinking I was gonna die. And, you know, finding my way out. But yeah, so I love the outdoors. And I love doing whatever I wanted.
And when I broke my back, I couldn’t do whatever I wanted. And that made me want to figure out how that how I could, you know, once I got past that, like, what was me it was just, there’s a way to do this right and use your skills as a machinist and designer to keep pushing that limit and keep making the chairs better. Yeah. And then it got then it got passed me like as I was making things better for myself. And some other people who use wheelchairs who would ask me for something for their chair. And that’s when it that’s when I started to become a better designer. Because I would just give them what i would i would reproduce what I had made for me. And then that didn’t work for them. Because they weren’t me. And so then I would have to listen to their feedback more closely, you know, or suffer, remaking these things up, you know, 10 times. So you got to be a good listener and a better designer, I think, I think being a good designer is being a good listener and, and interpreter of people’s problems.
That’s great. So, so I do want to talk about, you know, how you’re helping this other group was Easter Seals, camp or horizon? Yeah, and stuff. But, but I’m just curious, you know, what’s next for you. I mean, I know you’re doing a lot of things. But what’s
Christian Bagg 5:16
Well, I think what’s next is turning this bike into a product, a product that that can go beyond the, the program of finding a company to fund a bike for a charity and get it into into more people’s hands. Because the feeling I get when I’m on it, it is so much fun. And to deny any one of that. And maybe there’s people it’s not there, you know, it’s not their cup of tea. But for the people whose cup of tea it is, they deserve the access to it.
So, and that’s really where, where we branched off from it just being this, this idea, even even though it was material into like, an actual, an actual produce simple thing. And that’s where we’ll, that’s where it has really evolved was, was when Will came on board. And, and we were able to work together and, and evolve it and, and model it and make it manufacturer rubble and higher tech and, you know, get rid of the rusty nuts and bolts satisfaction.
So quickly, just to introduce Will Gil here who’s also with us will as an engineer working with Christian so Will, what’s your take on this? How do you help a Christian out?
Will Gill 6:38
Um, when I first started helping Christian with it, I wasn’t working with him. I was just doing it because I enjoyed design work. And when I was fresh out of school, I kind of missed designing because I hadn’t been designing. So I told Christian that he needed suspension on it. And I had an idea for front suspension. And I think I could do it without like disabling the Leaning ability of the bike, which is the key feature of the bike is that it it leaks. And so
I designed the front suspension. And it looked like it worked. And then we made it and it worked. And it was great. And so when Christian decided that he wanted to take it a step further. And he asked me to come on. I was like, yeah, I’ll come on. I already know most of the bike, I had already helped them build one or two. And it was like, it’s like, yeah, I wanna, I want to help take this further. And so when I the first thing I did when I came on, was just like, redraw everything. So
Designing for production, right?
Christian Bagg 7:43
Yeah, well, and just like, my CAD is my like, I mean, I, I got to where I needed to get to. And, and it was a useful and I think that’s a testament to Solidworks actually. Because as a tool, it worked for me. And, and I’m not a power user. And I’m, I’m not even a good user, I leave blue lines and I and my sketches blow up but not before they get to the water jetter and I get the part. So it It worked. And it helped our little company grow to a slightly bigger company. And, and all of those old drawings with Wills, actual skill on solid works, he could communicate with it, like it wasn’t that I used, you know, a lesser software to do these basic things, I used a super powerful software poorly that then someone who knew how to use it could expand on which I think is pretty cool actually. Because for such a powerful tool, you know, in the backgrounds it was able to communicate with Will. And he could he could look at look, even if even if the part that exploded, he could look and see what what I was attempting to do any laugh at me. And then he would do it. So I mean, Will was unbeknownst to Will, he was on like, a long job interview. And not not a formal one. But but this is a the, you know, we’re not making iPhones, we’re not we’re not making something that everybody wants. And it’s a it’s a harder it’s a harder industry to, to get rich in and being from Alberta, you know, oil, oil is king. And so there’s, as an engineer, there’s a lot of there’s some avenues open to you and and you to be involved in this, you actually have to be interested and we’ll sort of I guess I didn’t know he was on interview either. But he definitely showed initiative and interest to a level that that I hadn’t seen. So it was pretty obvious you needed to be a part of this next. That’s great.
So I do want to get back to want to make sure we mention you know, the other things you’re doing to help and other groups and stuff. Yeah, sorry, are you talked about that. But, ya
Christian Bagg 10:00
know, so as the story goes, that bike was this thing that I wanted to make for me. And and as it was getting, you know, as it was turning into a useful thing disabled kids camp asked if they could borrow it for this little girl named Lindsay to use. And she used it and went up this mountain called moose mountain in the Canon ask us in Alberta. And she came down and she had said, and she’s mostly nonverbal. So this is for her to, to really say anything is is pretty big. And she said she had the best day of her life. And it was like, I was like, immediately, I felt super selfish, that I had been making this thing for me at all and, and switch to like, okay, like, what are the features of this, like, what, what needs to happen so that this bike works for these kids are this demographic or any demographic, like, instead of zeroing in on what worked for me blew that apart and focused on how to make it work for everybody. So camp horizon ended up getting three of them. So now, tons of kids go out every day in and get to experience the outdoors.
Alberta parks has some an adaptive program and BC has some and sort of as we’re growing that side of it, that’s when we decided that it should be a consumer product instead of just focusing on these programs or, or charities that everyone should be able to have access if possible. And then we not that we ever really stopped with the company buying one for a charity. But we sort of refocused and revived it just because it was such a great program.
So MarkForged.com, the 3d printing company, they’re doing one or we’re building one for them right now, which will, they will tour around and then they’re going to donate to Muscular Dystrophy camp. And it’s really good, not just because it gets it out there. But it connects. We’re kind of sneakily connecting a charity with a company with a ton of money. And maybe the company thinks that their job is done when they hand off this bike. But really, when we step away, that’s that, that charity has them in a relationship that they can take advantage of long term.
And really, that’s kind of the beautiful part of it, I think it’s because it’s not about us or the bike at all, it’s really about changing these kids or individuals lives and, and the company being accountable for the money they make and giving back and, and it feels so good. Because some, so many of these companies will have a, like a, like a professional speaker come in and do a bit over lunch. You know, and some people listen, and some people cry, and some people are bored out of their trees. And, and lots of companies spend big money to get to get a motivational speaker come in. And I think it’s that money could be better spent, not necessarily just on our thing, but on on programs like this, where you know, they get or specifically ours, where they get this bike that the employees can watch being built on social media.
And there’s a little buy in and, and they sort of see this videos of kids using them. And, and they, they get excited for this moment that they’ve been a part of that their, you know, their their money and their time volunteering or being part of it in some way. Then they hand it off to this camp where these kids and then they take them out and they get to see it used. And they those those memories last a lot longer than, you know, hearing about someone like me doing some sport or something. You know, like there’s so many inspirational things that can happen. But I think if if the people if the the employees and the companies can generate their own inspirational moments that they can share. That’s more important than listening to me ever.
You know. So is there parts of the bike that can be 3d printed in some that’s how does it How does that work?
Yeah, well, that was almost I should let Will answer this because we, I’ll tell you how we came about the printer. Because I’m a I’m a dinosaur from from CAD, and even designing or even building, like, I use a manual milling machine, and a manual labor, and hacksaws and hammers, and
I’m with you there. haha
Christian Bagg 14:30
Yeah. And so and I had no interest in 3d printing to me, I had, I can visualize things really well, if I can’t, I’ve got CAD for that. And so this mid step of of a piece of garbage wasn’t useful to me, really. And so the sales guy came in, and he had his little, they have a little brake lever demo thing. And he’s like, hey, check out our new partners. Like, I’m not that interested, really. And he’s like, well, try and like, kind of break it. And I grabbed it. And I tried to break get I’m pretty strong. And it was a real part. And I was like, Oh, my God, I’ll take one. So literally, the next day, we bought a professional level 3d printer. So I own a 3d printer. It’s in my shop. And I’ve never actually ran it because because I could do it poorly. Or, you know, we can use the brains of the operation in the technical world. And that’s Will, so yeah, so. So
So, if they’re making a bike like a company’s making the bike, there’s some pieces they can 3d print.
Will Gill 15:35
Yeah, so um, on the bike we have here, there’s three or four parts that are structural, that are printed with they have carbon fiber in it. The mounts for the seat are printed, there’s a rear and mount for the the tilting system that’s printed, there’s a part on the steering column that’s printed that holds the brake tubes and stuff like that,
There’s really, we can print a lot of it, because it doesn’t see it ton of force, we have a assembly of the whole tilting mechanism, the whole front mechanism that’s all aluminum right now. But we have an assembly that is all printed. And that’s going to go on the bike that MarkForged is purchasing. So they’re going to have a full printed, articulating assembly up front. So theyll get to showcase that.
Christian Bagg 16:25
And it is, it’s, it’s a nice way for us to a prototype, which is obvious to the anybody listening about 3d printing, because that’s, that’s what they’re for. But it’s also unique for us. Because when we do get to these, these kids with unique physical attributes between muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy, or any other number of disabilities, um, they have a whole bunch of different needs. And they may be unique to that one person. And so with 3d printing, instead of, you know, the regular duct tape and foam that they are that they’re used to that, that for their whole life, these are the solutions that are employed on them, we can, we can look at them, and 3d print something unique, that looks professional, and it looks like it belongs. And it’s not a piece of foam duct tape to something so it gets them products that that people like you and I are used to.
So it’s, it’s a really good tool to give them something they deserve. And to make a professional looking product that is unique. Instead of spending $10,000 on a mold for one part, you can print one really nice part and it doesn’t end it’s not a it’s not a charity. It’s not a cost to the company. It’s just something you’re capable of doing now, right?
That’s great. Yeah, why don’t I don’t want to keep you guys but I think this is great. And obviously very inspirational story. But I’d like to leave, you know, any advice you have any inspiration you have for other designers or people who wanting to create their own designs or Yes, for me, it’s to to make it and try it and learn what doesn’t work because failure has been my best tool really. And and I’ve done so much of it. But I’ve done it in such volume that the small successes have added up to quite a few. So yeah, volume of volume of failure, it say seek failure.
I think that’s actually advice. Yeah, yeah. Especially for people who are out there failed a couple of times to keep it up. Yeah,
Will Gill 18:30
yeah, yeah, I think I think for me, for like other designers like getting your hands dirty, is really helpful going and actually building what you’re designing or learning how it’s getting built. After I worked at the machine shop. And after I’ve worked with Christian Christians taught me a lot about machining and my design philosophy has changed a lot on how I approach problems. So like knowing how things are going to get made and understanding that process and making sure you’re not making incredibly hard on someone to make it is really helpful on it really helps Push Push your design that much further. So you don’t need to like reiterate your part 20 times because it’s impossible to make.
Christian Bagg 19:12
And I think that’s an important one not because I’m a crotchety old machinist, but because you got one kick at the can, from a monetary standpoint, like you can, you can design and design and design and then you might not have enough money to make it four times might have, you might have enough money to make it once. So it is really valuable to understand how things are made so that you don’t get halfway done on on something that could have been fully done for half the price.
Will Gill 19:45
Excellent. I know I said last question. But any anything you want, if people want to get involved in, you know, any, anything we can do to help you with laws.
Christian Bagg 19:52
So we’re working on our website right now. But Instagram is #iconexplore. So the best way that that we can evolve and move forward is for people to know about us. And and it’s a it’s a pretty small community, but it’s pretty far reaching. You know, if you’re three degrees of separation from someone who could use a bike like this, then chances are it’ll you’ll be motivated to, to tell them about it. So really, you know, we’re not so focused on just our demographic following us are watching us we’re just focused on anybody because the trickle down is is huge. So yeah, just watch and follow. And that’s, I’ll be
Yeah. Excellent. That was great guys.
Thanks for listening today and remember to get outdoors no excuses. A quick note that this episode was sponsored by Solidworks simulation Solidworks simulation enables every designer and engineer to simulate and analyze design performance. With fast and easy to use CAD embedded analysis solutions, you can quickly and easily deploy advanced simulation techniques to optimize performance while you design with capabilities that cut down on constantly prototypes and eliminate rework and delays and save you time and development costs. And best of all you can do all of this within your Solidworks environment will be back again soon with more great board design, podcast stories, at Solidworks.com/podcast or wherever podcasts are readily available. Until then, keep on designing.