Grade 7 - Furniture Design and Build

  • 2023
Dean Lea, Foundry Specialist Teacher


Our two-week intensive, which we planned for our Grade 7 students, was in support of our Learning Garden at The Grove and our drive to improve the top floor space and its suitability to be used increasingly as a learning space. We agreed to plan the intensive two week learning experiences around the application of Design Thinking and Engineering when developing rooftop furniture.

We aimed to have the student groups design and build multiple prototypes in order for the final design to be effective for the space. 

Planning directed the learning towards developing Design Thinking, Engineering Cycle awareness, Sustainability applications, collaborative/resilient mindsets and constructional skills. After introducing the overarching goal of improving The Grove’s roof, we had the students realize empathy towards what might be wanted by our community. Teachers and operational staff came to speak about their ideas/needs.

The Foundry required students to use hard wood and concrete. We also required a sustainable focus on the usage of the products. We wanted the students to experiment with a variety of Concrete aggregates, including  recycled plastic.

Both groups constructed a common-sized wooden box in which they placed a variety of concrete mixes. Fifteen concrete bricks were left to cure for 36 hours and then tested for comparative strength.

Once the bricks were cured, we extracted the concrete from the boxes and conducted strength tests. The testing process included drop tests and hammer smashing tests. The results determined the concrete mix we would use.

Each week’s class consisted of five table groups. We planned for the students to ideate, design, and prototype five designs.

With the requirement to expect a sustainable mindset and action, we required initial prototypes to be built at a 2:1 scale - half size from plans. We spoke about why we needed to do this. Each table group ideated and designed their furniture product. 

Once students had designed, collected/prepared materials, and constructed their 50%-sized wooden molds, it was time to introduce plastic and concrete.

It was rewarding for us all to keep this learning experience as authentic and ‘real’ as possible. The reality that products iterate to become quality and appropriate was something we wanted to have the students live. 

Focusing on educating students about plastic concerns and concrete construction led us to build and test collections of concrete aggregate bricks. The strength test results influenced the concrete mix used for the initial prototypes. Students mixed a concrete ratio of 2 cement / 1 sand / 3 plastic, resulting in a concrete mix that is 50% plastic.

The molds were constructed. The concrete was mixed and placed. The cure process began, and over the course of 24 days, the concrete gradually strengthens. The next step was for the students to remove the molds from the concrete and check their design quality.

The groups reflected on design quality, prototype strength, concrete mix, and construction concerns. From here, the table groups created a document to pass on to the upcoming team for Week Two. Their task is to iterate the design to a full-scale prototype.

The second week students digested presentations, information, communications, advice and expectations and set to redesigning design details. In most cases, design dimensions were increased to strengthen the iterated prototypes. Concrete mixtures were adjusted accordingly. Then, full-size molds were carefully built.

We are impressed at the students ability to reside semi-comfortably with: large scale, extremely physical, quality/accuracy demanding, persistently messy and relentlessly tiring expectations.

We all worked tirelessly, mixing concrete pile after pile after pile for hours trying to fill all of the full sized molds. Despite having all hands on deck, we only filled 5 out of 10 molds with concrete.

The filled molds contain:
🔨 Four 40 KG bags of cement 
🔨 35 large bags of sand
🔨 70 KG of recycled plastic from Baguio 
🔨 Approximately 60 recycled plastic bottles from the Foundry plastic recycling program
🔨 An incredible amount of resilience and power from our Grade 7.

The Foundry will continue to construct the student designs, and will invite the grade seven students to help us when they can.

More photos HERE!

This project has lived an authentic design and engineering cycle for all involved. We are thrilled.

Well done, Grade 7 students!

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