Out of the Box–An Engineering Design Process Challenge

May 26, 2022 | Melissa McCallihan

Have you heard of Frank Gehry? He’s an architect who in the 1960’s created a chair out of corrugated cardboard that became a decorating success. Still today these chairs are collector’s items. But that is not what Mr. Gehry wanted for his life. He wanted to be a well known architect. Now at 93 years old, his buildings are highly regarded and rewarded. You may recognize his work. 

Why this story of an architect? Middle school students are embarking on a new engineering design project. In the project students are to research an architect and create a piece of furniture from cardboard that reflects the style and nuance of the work of that architect. 

The engineering design process is a process that includes researching, brainstorming, planning, revising and finalizing a design that meets the constraints and requirements of the project. In this project students can only use cardboard and tape or hot glue. It has to be built to scale. The builds cannot be embellished with other materials but can be painted. The furniture is to be useful and perhaps problem solve furniture solutions in our school. 

Anna, Bella and Sophie have chosen the architect Zaha Hadid. Their build reflects the curved edges that Hadid incorporates into her work. Their design is a desk that has a chair and a shelf. 

Gabriel chose the architectural style of I.M. Pei. Gabriel’s chair plan reflects the triangular nature of Pei’s work.

Frank Gehry has been quoted as saying, “architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness.” My hope is that the idea of timelessness would infuse student learning and model making.

Melissa McCallihan

Teacher, Grade 6; Science Grades 6-8

Teaching children to take risks and fail well is important to Melissa McCallihan, who has taught for over 30 years. She believes children learn as much through their failures as they do through their successes. She celebrates both in her classroom. In collaboration with the middle school director, art teacher, and other fourth and fifth grade teachers, Mrs. McCallihan has been instrumental in developing the STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) program, an extension of the Lower School’s Shared Space model. “STEAM is where students solve problems and sometimes get it wrong,” says Mrs. McCallihan when asked about risks and failing well. “Students need to learn how to do that with grace, and to try again with grit and determination.” Mrs. McCallihan currently teaches sixth through eighth grade science.

Mrs. McCallihan cares deeply about relationships with her colleagues, students, and families. She works hard to make and maintain connections on a personal and professional level. And follows the mantra “Worship God, Love All.”

When not at school, you can find Mrs. McCallihan searching out a fantastic restaurant or hidden sight to see in New York City.

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