Rye Neck High School students in Lori Penesis’ Advanced Engineering classes are creating prototypes for new chairs in their creative learning spaces. They’re applying the concepts they’ve learned in their physics classes for a structural engineering application to solve a real-world problem.

Penesis said that her students have been working in groups to brainstorm ideas about how they can improve the furniture in their classrooms. Using PVC piping for the desk attachment, plastic for the fittings and synthetic wood for the desktops, the students are designing their own prototypes. 

“One group is working on creating a symmetrical desk,” Penesis said. “They will rotate the desk all around and lock it for a left-handed user.” 

Throughout the course of the semester, the students have been researching different types of engineering designs and thoroughly studying the role of an engineer. They’re also learning how various mechanisms work, and how to troubleshoot and safely build a functional product.  

“If you look at something simple, you get surprised at how much thought goes into it because you take it for granted,” Penesis said. “The idea that the students are able to use what they know, through physics and science, to solve a problem that they see around them, like the chair, that’s an interesting thing. They’re learning as they go.” 

Penesis’ classes will create two different prototypes for chairs and continue to gather feedback about the users’ experience.