MindField showcases Saskatchewan scientists

By in Culture


Saskatchewan is a hotbed of scientific discovery and the new TV show MindField aims to illustrate some of the most interesting stories from the province.

The six-part documentary series tells the stories of the Canadian Light Source, research using remote sensing (recording visual information using satellites) and the technology behind wind energy.

One episode that follows the University of Saskatchewan Space Design Team (USST) will be featured at a launch event on Nov. 4 at the Broadway Theatre.

The film crew from Juxtapose Productions followed the USST during an 18-month period while they prepared for a NASA-sponsored space elevator competition.

“It was pretty incredible how long they were with us. It was a really long story to keep track of,” said Mark Boots, vice-president of engineering for the team during the episode’s production. “It’s so cool to have that whole story captured.”

A space elevator is a proposed structure that would transport material from the Earth to space as an alternative to a rocket-powered launch.

The documentary tells the story through five or six people on the team, but Boots pointed out there were hundreds of people involved in the project over the years, with 20 to 30 people working on it during any given year. While he said it took awhile to get used to having the film crew follow them around, the crew was respectful of their work environment.

“The production crew are all great guys and they were really cooperative and doing all they could to help us out.”

The USST had been working on the space elevator project since 2005, placing first three years running in the annual NASA competition. Unfortunately, shortly after the last competition in the fall of 2009, NASA decided that the competition should promote American innovation, so the USST is no longer eligible to compete.

“It’s really too bad because at that point, although we didn’t win the 2009 competition, we had developed some technology that was at the forefront in the world.”

The MindField episode doesn’t cover the disappointing development; associate producer for Juxtapose, Eric Thiessen, said the issue was ongoing, so “at the end of the day it was best to leave it out.”

Thiessen, a U of S student, has been involved with Juxtapose since 2008. The first project he worked on was MindField and the multi-talented Thiessen went on to direct and write the USST episode, co-direct another episode and help with editing on a couple episodes.

Now that MindField has mostly wrapped up, he’s working on the Gemini-nominated Hell on Hooves, a reality show that follows cowboys along the bull riding circuit.

“That’s the other exciting thing in the office these days,” he said, “The Geminis are this week”¦. We’ll find out if we get to be a Gemini award-winning company.”

While he’s excited by Hell on Hooves and the future for Juxtapose Productions, he still hopes viewers will see another season of MindField.

“The story is there and the research is there and we’ve already picked a bunch of scientist and interesting stories [for a second season],” he said. “Once we started looking into this, it’s just amazing what kind of science is going on in the province, in the city and at the U of S. There’s no end for content.”