Can 13-Year Old Kids Design? You Betcha!

By Meera Dolasia on March 27, 2011

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When Rinat Aruh and Johan Liden, from New York-based design studio, Aruliden offered to teach a design seminar to the eight graders at the School at Columbia University, they did not expect much. It was just their way of thanking the school for allowing them to conduct student focus group studies, for a client. So you can only imagine their surprise when the 13-year olds came up with what Ms. Aruh describes as 'mind blowing ideas'!

Dubbed 'Tools for Schools', the seminar focused on getting the kids to envision the classroom furniture of the future. Divided into three teams, the students were asked to come up with innovative designs for a chair, desk and school locker.

Unlike other similar collaborations between schools and design firms, the class was not treated as a stand-alone 'after' school program, but integrated in the normal coursework. During math, the teams figured out the design in terms of ratios and proportion, in science they researched materials, while during language arts, they worked on their presenting their final ideas.

Besides drawing from their own experiences, the teams also conducted copious amounts of research, by interviewing fellow students, members of the school faculty and scouring around the Internet, for inspiration. While some ideas incorporated in the final design came from this research, others were inspired by simple observations - like the idea to make the chairs more comfortable using wooden balls, came after one of the students accidently sat on some balls and realized that it was comfortable, while the suggestion to add a swivel and enable the chairs to bounce up and down, came as a result of a student watching his dad swivel around as he pondered for an idea.

Once the teams had completed the design work, they built prototypes from pipe cleaners and balsa wood and also, created Power Point presentations on the cost, potential market and advertising strategies. 

To take it to the next step, Ms. Aruh took the design sketches and created computer renditions, which she has presented along with the specifications, to North Carolina's, Bernhardt furnishing company, so that they can manufacture actual samples. The designs are so impressive that Bernhardt plans to showcase them at New York's International Contemporary Furniture show, this May.

So back to our question - Can 13-year-old students design? The results above speak for themselves. If only more firms and educators would collaborate on these kind of 'out of the box' projects - School would be soooo much more fun!


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  • mwahahahaha
    mwahahahahaFriday, December 12, 2014 at 4:58 pm
    • AlexaSunday, December 7, 2014 at 7:12 pm
      • wowTuesday, November 11, 2014 at 7:13 am
        That is so cool. I would like those desks in my classroom.
        • sea eyesSaturday, November 1, 2014 at 8:52 pm
          This would be so much fun. I hope in the future, they will have these these in schools all over the world.
          • sarbm
            sarbmSunday, October 26, 2014 at 6:53 am
            • jordanvt
              jordanvtWednesday, October 22, 2014 at 10:03 am
              • gendav
                gendavThursday, October 16, 2014 at 11:01 am
                Kids are so going to be next-level designers, and builders.
                • izzy10can
                  izzy10canFriday, October 10, 2014 at 9:24 am
                  Omg this is so cool! Kids rule adults drule!
                  • wildchild999
                    wildchild999Sunday, June 22, 2014 at 11:02 am
                    • headream100
                      headream100Thursday, November 28, 2013 at 6:01 am
                      I made tons of antique design furniture when I was young. I don't want to brag, but they were amazing. I like the handmade chair with the t shirt on it. It's so creative.




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