Celebrating ‘Chemmunity’ spirit virtually: Students pivot to online platform for 2021 Iron Ring Party

The annual Iron Ring Party is one of the most anticipated events for graduating chemical engineering students to come together and celebrate the culmination of their degree – receiving their iron ring. Making the best of current COVID-19 gathering restrictions, students moved the event online and organized the Department’s first-ever virtual Iron Ring Party.

In the spirit of ‘Chemmunity’, the organizing team leveraged a popular online community-building platform called Gather.town to bring together students, faculty and staff much like previous years.

“Online or offline, this celebration is a hallmark of our chemical engineering degree,” says Madison Desembrana (ChemE 1T9+1+PEY), chair, Chem Club. “Despite how abnormal this last year has been, it was important to us to celebrate this huge milestone in a meaningful way.”

Dean Chris Yip (ChemE 8T8) gives remarks at the ChemE Iron Ring Party.

Through Gather.town, students created a virtual meeting hall with separate rooms within the space to facilitate smaller conversations. Over 50 students, faculty and staff interacted through chat, games and embedded content such as videos, playlists, photo albums and more.

“We created a virtual photobooth where students could take pictures as a group or as individuals with the ChemE 2T0 + PEY and 2T1 Skule™ jacket patch background,” says Desembrana. “With an online format, we were able to make the experience more personal for the graduating class and showcase even more memories.”

Most importantly, organizers maintained long-standing traditions including the annual Iron Ring auction and leadership speeches. The pivot to an online event also sparked the creation of an entirely new way to celebrate and commemorate.

Students take a group photo with Chem Club’s Iron Ring 2021 patch design in Gather.town.

“Traditionally, the Iron Ring Party is funded by the previous graduating year through Graditude funds, and this year was no exception. Thanks to the 1T9 + PEY and 2T0 classes, we were able to arrange for ChemE memorabilia, a custom ChemE Skule™ jacket patch and keychain, to be made and sent out to all graduating students,” says Desembrana. “For next year’s class, our Graditude directors, Nora Alganabi (ChemE 2T1) and Elena Pappas (ChemE 2T2+1), created a new program called ‘Chemmunity of Giving’ so next year’s class can continue the tradition of celebrating this special day.”

This year, Professor Jennifer Farmer (ChemE) and Professor Graeme Norval (ChemE) donated items for the auction.

“The auction was my favourite part of the event. They brought fantastic items that generated entertaining bidding wars and jokes, but more than that, it made the Chemmunity spirit shine!” says Desembrana. “The most popular items in the event were of course Professor Norval’s iconic knit sweaters which sold for $200 each – these sweaters themselves are a steadfast Iron Ring Party tradition!”

Professor Jennifer Farmer holds bids for a COVID Care Pack in the Iron Ring Party auction.

Through the auction and the new Chemmunity of Giving campaign, students raised over $1,400 for next year’s Iron Ring Party. “Despite the pandemic, our Chemmunity came out strong to pay it forward for the next class and I am so proud of all the hard work that went into the campaign,” says Desembrana.

Desembrana says moving the event online was no small feat and required the dedication and creativity of many students. “I would like to thank all Chem Club members and volunteers who helped with the event, from creating the Gather.town space to helping with tech support to tracking auction winners and taking photos,” she says. “I’d also like to thank all the students, faculty and staff who attended, donated and brought their Chemmunity spirit!”


Learn more about the Chemmunity of Giving campaign to give back to next year’s graduating class