Thursday, October 24th, 2013
By Shelley Grieshop
Wright State students 'sitting pretty' in cardboard chairs they designed
  CELINA - It wasn't difficult to guess who had built the sea-foam green cardboard chair on display in the engineering class at Wright State University-Lake Campus.
The delicate pink flowers painted on each arm were a dead giveaway.
"I'm the only girl in this class," laughed Anna Muhlenkamp, who is in her first year of the four-year program.
Her project was one of 17 inspected and graded Wednesday afternoon by Lake Campus assistant professor Dr. Dennis Bulen. For nearly an hour he strolled among the colorful chairs in Trenary Hall, sat in each to check for sturdiness and drilled the students about the steps they had taken during construction.
Bulen told student Brian Schwieterman of Maria Stein that his 106-pound, high-back chair appeared very functional.
"That's what I was going for, something I could actually use," Schwieterman told him.
The assignment required the all-cardboard chairs to be no bigger than 48-inches-by-72-inches and recommended a weight of less than 50 pounds. No mechanical fasteners were allowed, only glue; duct tape was discouraged. Rockers and waffle-shaped seats on display proved the sky was the limit for style.
Instructor Dennis Hance set the students' budget at a maximum of $50. Most of the undergraduates said the cardboard they used was either destined for recycling or donated.
The project took students about six weeks to complete and is one of three they will tackle this year in the 2-year-old engineering program. The assignment included research, drafting concept models, creating a design with computer software, construction and a final report, Hance said.
"It's the entire engineering process," he said, adding the project teaches students how to apply learned skills to the creation of practical products.
Russell Hutcheson, 40, of Celina, admitted his chair "isn't the prettiest in the world" but noted it's fairly stable.
"My experience in the military taught me that anything that's going to be used by younger people needs to be more sturdy," he said.
The National Guardsman put about 16 hours into his multi-colored chair. The red, white and blue streaks show his patriotism; yellow means caution, he explained.
"It's a warning sign: don't sit back like you would in a recliner," Hutcheson said with a grin.
One of the most important things he learned was the value of a Gantt chart, which is a project schedule, he said.
"I didn't stick to it like I should have," he admitted.
Craig Broerman of New Bremen used a deep, brown paint on his chair for a wood-like appearance.
"When I made the computer modeling, I made it brown so I thought I'd just go with that," he said.
The wide seat - pieced together with hot glue - looked comfy. Broerman boasted its solid construction.
"This thing could hold a car, no lie," he said.
Bulen agreed and chose it as the most sturdy of the group.
Hance said the projects at the branch campus overall seem superior to the ones submitted this week in his international engineering class at the Dayton campus.
"One of those collapsed to the floor" when the student sat down, he said.
Bulen at times was forced to squeeze himself in and out of narrow chairs during the judging process. However, he took the task in stride and deemed the experience a positive one.
"I love doing this stuff, it's great," he said. "There's a lot of good talent here."
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