I find that there are always a few shiny nuggets that can be mined from professional development workshops. Last summer I attended a particularly interesting offer titled Student-Centered Learning and Flexible Learning Environment taught by @mrhooker. A true professional workshop facilitator to be sure, Carl broke us up into small groups and had us design cardboard chairs and build them in one hour. Cardboard has always been a favorite material of mine to work with, so I immediately started thinking about taking this straight to the classroom in the fall.
After a brief introduction to the Engineering Design Process I challenged my classes to design and build a chair using only cardboard that could hold me 18 inches from the ground for 90 seconds. The students chose groups of 3-4 and underwent a safety training course to become proficient with a utility knife. They also were asked to chronicle their work in a Design Notebook using Google Slides. I prefer Google Slides for the ease of sharing and commenting privileges even though the actual presentation tools are far more basic than most other slide show creation tools.
Each student in the group had to brainstorm a list of ideas for a chair design, which meant quick sketches. After narrowing their own sketches to one that they thought would work best, they each drew isometric and orthographic drawings of their idea.
from 3d modeling to Prototype printing to construction
After conferencing with their groups and collaboratively discovering the pros and cons of each design, the groups decided which design would be constructed. I attempted this same challenge last semester with some recycled boxes, which offered unnecessary constraints to the kids' ideas, so this time I decided to shop around for some nice sheets, and spend a little of my budget for superior materials. I was fortunate to connect with the very generous folks at Austin Foam Plastics Inc. They donated a nice stack to the cause, and my good friend at Eric Billig WORKS drove the 50 miles to Pflugerville and back on a near ice day to pick it up and deliver it to my shop.
This project lasted for a little over two weeks. For the finale we registered our predictions for each chair. Do you think this chair will hold Mr. Lofgren for 90 seconds. Then I personally sat in each chair.
Sample Engineering Design Notebooks