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Chair Project Kicks Off School Year in Project Based Engineering

The first day that students showed up for Scott Brauer’s Project Based Engineering class they were a bit confused by the lack of some place to sit.  The Orleans/Niagara BOCES class, located at the Niagara Career and Technical Education Center, seemed to have no chairs. 


When they questioned Mr. Brauer about the dilemma, he told them it was time to start their first class project.  He pulled a piece of plywood out and set it up on two saw horses.  “Some student’s work with an existing template and build a time tested stool and some get to design and build their own.  This is where it can get interesting. The students compare and critique each chair for design and usability.”


Mr. Brauer shows them the finished project and then tasks them with determining how much a piece of plywood costs and how many chairs they can make out of it.  “It is a cool project because it ties in math and entrepreneur skills.  They need to think about what time of year it is for when they purchase the plywood, because if it is hurricane season, the price will be significantly higher.  They can see their profit drop by 20 to 30%.  I think it is important for students to find their niche and maybe find many things they enjoy doing.  This could potentially lead them to a part time job or something they just do for enjoyment and can make some extra money from”.  The class also talks about who would be their target audience if they were to build the chairs and sell them.  The students decided parents going to outdoor sporting events and fishermen and hunters would be good clientele. 


After laying out the template and measuring on the plywood, the first team of students felt that they could get seven chairs out of the piece of wood.  Mr. Brauer said they did a good job, but if they flipped some of the pieces they could actually get eight chairs out of the piece.  “This program focuses on manufacturing where you will be making multiples of things that all have to be standardized.  For the seniors, this is a great project for problem solving and using the skills they will learned in class the year before.  For my juniors, it lets me assess what skills they are coming into the classroom with and what tools they know how to use.  Once I get a good sense of that, I know what I need to start teaching them and where their comfort level is.” 

 man showing stool template

man drawing template

men talking to students