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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  • laurablackwell
    laurablackwellSaturday, September 24, 2016 at 11:59 am
    OMG coolllllll
    • don'tySunday, August 28, 2016 at 5:19 pm
      • Allen IversonMonday, May 2, 2016 at 8:53 am
        • doggysforever21
          doggysforever21Thursday, April 7, 2016 at 8:20 am
          i'm in the second half of third grade and i can already can do this
          • unnderaumergirl
            unnderaumergirlMonday, March 7, 2016 at 8:14 am
            Thats awesome
            • ????Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 8:25 am
              this is pretty cool
              • sweetpanda
                sweetpandaSunday, January 24, 2016 at 12:08 pm
                THAT IS SOOOOO COOL!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :)
                • ThingsFriday, January 22, 2016 at 12:20 pm
                  I'm 13, but I still for the life of me CANNOT design furniture I can design clothing...
                  • neonbook Sunday, December 27, 2015 at 11:54 am
                    Awsome work. Go for it
                    • rc99130
                      rc99130Friday, November 27, 2015 at 4:38 pm
                      cool but not article worthy. still coo
                      • crafty502
                        crafty502Thursday, December 31, 2015 at 2:06 pm
                        are you crazy? this is article worthy
                        • unifandom
                          unifandomFriday, January 22, 2016 at 12:09 pm
                          Of course it is article worthy!!!!!!!!!!
                          • rexx05
                            rexx05Wednesday, January 27, 2016 at 6:33 am
                        • smartowl999
                          smartowl999Wednesday, December 16, 2015 at 5:15 pm
                          you gotta be kidding me! this is totally article worthy!!!!!!!!

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