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At BRNT Designs, Four University of Alberta Students Aim to Build a Better Bong

Published on September 1, 2017 · Last updated July 28, 2020

For many people, college is where they first encountered and learned to properly handle a bong. But for a quartet of students at the University of Alberta, college is where they hatched and began prototyping their plan to build a better bong—an easily cleanable rig designed to withstand humanity’s tendency to drop things, yet stylish enough to warrant display in the home.

Thus began BRNT Designs, which found the four UAlberta students—two mechanical engineering students, two business students—working with the vice dean of the business school to help make their dream bong a physical and commercial reality.

BRNT’s first project: the Hexagon, a ceramic bong with a striking, angular design that’s engineered to be dishwasher- and freezer-safe as well as drop-resistant. (That’s it pictured above.) This fall, BRNT will be launching an online crowdfunding campaign to fund the Hexagon. This week, I talked to BRNT CEO Simon Grigenas and Chief Marketing Officer Andrew Feltham about their bongly ambitions and histories and the challenges of navigating the sporadically legal recreational cannabis marketplace.

LEAFLY: Let’s start at the beginning—what was your first experience with any sort of bong?

SIMON: My first experience was when I was much younger, with a bong I made myself. I was at a buddy’s house, and we cut up a two-liter plastic bottle and made something with that. The first bong I ever purchased came from the corner-store head shop, where I picked out the cheapest glass bong I could find. A month and a half later, I knocked it over and it broke, and that was that.

Simon, Andrew, and the Hexagon prototype

ANDREW: I just recently started smoking, and my first experience with a bong was with Simon’s rig.

SIMON: Our prototype BRNT bong is now our go-to dab rig. We’ve been working with different prototypes for the past year, and we’ve really grown fond of this one we’re using now, which has a quartz banger in it.

Did your previous experience with bongs supply you with a list of complaints and shortcomings you knew you wanted to address with your own bong? 

SIMON: I was the one who had the most experience with cannabis use. I’m a medical marijuana patient in Canada, and I’m treated for a head trauma I had a few years back. So I brought all my knowledge of bongs—having difficulty cleaning glass bongs in the past, having trouble with bongs breaking or falling of a coffee table and cracking. Those are some of the things I wanted to change. And then there was the experience of the past five years, reading about cannabis accessories, putting ice in your bong. I wanted to be able to cool smoke even more, by ensuring our bong is freezer-safe.

What’s been the most surprising bump in the road in the prototyping of your bong?

SIMON: Finding engineers. We have two engineers in-house, and we also worked with contracted engineers. And a lot of them didn’t have a lot of experience with cannabis. You have to bring all your knowledge to them, show them what you’re looking to do, and really work back-and-forth to make sure the design suits the functionality. It was tough, and we went through a lot of prototypes—different 3-D printed designs and ceramic models—to figure out exactly what the user will have in their hand.

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What’s been the biggest challenge in regard to design and functionality?

ANDREW: I’d say the most difficult thing has been heat resistance—working with thermal shock to determine how thick the bong walls need to be, and how the holes are designed on the down-stem, and integrating all those things in a piece that can still go in the dishwasher and freezer

It’s easy to talk about a bong in the abstract. When the Hexagon becomes reality, will you send us one so we can see how it all panned out?

SIMON: Absolutely!

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Dave Schmader
Dave Schmader
Dave Schmader is the author of the book "Weed: The User's Guide." Follow him on Twitter @davidschmader
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