Child Designed Furniture - SCOPES Digital Fabrication

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Ryan Moreno
Ryan Moreno
K-12 admin
Ryan Moreno is a father of 3, and Administrator/S.T.E.M. Educator at REM Learning Center. REM is an NAEYC accredited school focused on early childhood education and former Maker Corps Host Site in Miami Florida. Ryan earned a Ph.D. in Mechanical… Read More


Creating classroom furniture with children is one example of a successful scaffolded fabrication activity that can be an empowering experience for young children. This experience includes adults working alongside children (ages four to nine) to design and make their own furniture for a Fab Lab or Makerspace.

TEACHER​ ​NOTE:​ ​This lesson uses an open source chair design, the Five to Thirty Minute Chair from AtFAB, as our base.

  • We first scaled the chair size to be appropriate for children.
  • We then added customizable features.
  • We added handle holes of various geometric shapes and additional changes to the geometry of the arches which create the chair legs.
  • We made sure there was enough variation so that each student would have a unique design.

What You'll Need

Materials​ ​List

Cardboard – We use 0.14 inch thick cardboard boxes but now have found a steady stream of recycled cardboard large Dominos pizza box tops which measure about 0.10 inch thick.

Hot Glue
Wood – ½ inch birch plywood from Home Depot
Screws #8 1-⅛ inch coarse thread
Paint brushes
Sand Paper
Electric Sander
Safety glasses
Safety Masks

Digital​ ​Fabrication​ ​Equipment​ ​Details

Software: Vector design software for laser cutting Inkscape, and Corel Draw. Design software for CNC Vcarve Pro Shopbot Edition

Digital​ ​Fabrication​ ​Equipment:
50 Watt Epilog Helix Laser Cutter bed size 24 x 18
ShopBot Desktop bed size 24 x 18
bit used 2 flute ¼ compression

The Instructions

Step​ ​One​ ​-​ ​Can​ ​we​ ​make​ ​our​ ​own​ ​chairs?​ ​Create​ ​a​ ​Cardboard​ ​Prototype

TEACHER​ ​NOTE​: Before class, use the laser cutter to pre-cut the parts of a scaled down cardboard version of the chair designs. There should be more than enough of each piece so that all students can design their own unique chairs.

Essential​ ​Question:​ ​Can​ ​we​ ​make​ ​our​ ​own​ ​chairs?

  1. The lesson begins with an interesting dilemma. When the students enter the classroom they are faced with a problem. There are not enough chairs for them. Ask student if they ever thought of making their own chairs. Ask students questions to seek understanding and determine what they already know or need to know to make a claim and construct explanations to the question (K-2​ ​Practice​ ​1​).
  2. To begin, first look closely at the components that make up one of the other chairs in the room. Guide students to think about how they can best make observations to design a solution to a problem (K-2 Practice​ ​3​)
  3. Guide a discussion about the various parts of a chair that would be needed (4 legs, 1 seat, 1 seat back),CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.2
  4. Teacher will arrange students into groups to compare designs. Have groups share their idea and discuss with class which ideas would work best and why (K-2​ ​Practice​ ​2​)
  5. Teacher will encourage students to use drawings or other visual symbols, where appropriate, to support their ideas, clarify their responses, and communicate relevant details related to the design of a chair.​ ​(SL.2)
  6. Teacher will demonstrate the process of cutting the cardboard pieces of 1 chair on the laser cutter, talk about the machine, what it is doing and how it works. (SL.K.3)
  7. Teacher will arrange students in groups of 1 adult to 5 children to compare designs and decide on 1 final version. (SL.K.1,​ ​1.1,​ ​2.1)
  8. Teacher will guide discussion to help students determine that the thin cardboard being used to design their chairs would not be sturdy enough to sit on (CCSS.Math.Content.K.MD.A.1​)
  9. Teacher will ask students what material could make the chair stronger.

Step​ ​Two​ ​-​ ​Create​ ​a​ ​CNC​ ​Iteration​ ​of​ ​Chair

  1. Teacher will introduce the Shopbot CNC as a tool that can help students scale up their designs and make the chairs out of a stronger material, like wood.
  2. Teacher will have students: (1) answer questions about task; (2) have students ask questions of each other and seek clarification of explanations as they share their chair features; (3) provide their reasons for their design process. After having opportunities to revise their designs, teachers will allow students to ask and answer additional questions to deepen their understanding of the concepts elicited by the discussion.​ ​(SL.1)
  3. Students watch one piece of the chair being cut out on the first day of the lesson. The other pieces needed will be cut by the adult before the next session. (CCSS.Math.Content.1.MD.A.2​)
  4. Teacher will introduce students to sandpaper by having them sand down the pieces by hand, and with an electric sander.
  5. Students will assemble their chairs by screwing pieces together using both a screwdriver and hand-held drill.
  6. All students will participate in painting the chairs with nontoxic paint.
  7. Once paint is dried, the teacher will apply 2 coats of a nontoxic sealer and finisher (Shellac) and when dry, will bring the chairs to the space.
  8. Students will make their final presentations in formats familiar to their spaces of design processes and chairs. They will provide an engaging context for students to practice speaking clearly, in complete sentences to support their ideas and emerging understanding of digital fabrication.​ ​(SL.3)

Fab​ ​Lab​ ​Tester​ ​Notes
– You need to use exactly the right size wood for the template files; otherwise, they will not fit together. If you have other wood in stock, you can adjust the templates as needed.
– This lesson requires a significant amount of prep time before and between sessions when students will be actually cutting out the chairs on the ShopBot.

Lesson Feedback

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  1. SCOPES-DF March 8, 2019
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