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Project enables North Hills students to think outside the box

| Wednesday, May 14, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Twenty students at North Hills High School set out to create designs for furniture and play equipment, with preschoolers in mind.

Students in the “Advanced Engineering, Drawing and Design” course built a recliner, trunk, table and even a vehicle entirely out of cardboard this spring that a group of rambunctious children tested and judged.

“We knew it was for preschoolers,” said Tyler Rice, who worked with fellow sophomore Bobby Karnavas, 16, of West View to design a working cardboard vehicle that was tested by 19 children in the district's preschool. The preschool provides hands-on experience for high school students in child development classes.

“We wanted to build something that would catch the attention of preschoolers,” said Rice, 16, of Ross Township.

And with some of the children, the vehicle was a huge success.

“Yes!” said Krystian Thomas, 3, when he sat on it and Karnavas began giving him the first of many pushes.

“This is my best car,” he said.

Though the cardboard designs were a hit with the tiny target audience, Karnavas said they were created using professional engineering software, and a lot of calculations and design went into the furniture.

“They're still learning engineering,” said technology education teacher Jim Cassandro, who has challenged students to create boats, cars, kinetic energy machines and bridges using cardboard, in addition to furniture, in past years.

“If you make a mistake, it's an old pizza box,” said Cassandro, noting that the low cost of cardboard makes it a great learning medium for trial-and-error design.

The furniture and play equipment was designed using AutoCAD, a software used by professional engineers. The student designs had to have one moving part and, of course, had to be able to withstand 3- to 5-year-olds. Seniors Anthony Sciulli and Brad Walter, both 18 and from Ross, designed a table with holes in which moving toy hamsters scuttled around. The preschoolers poked dowel rods through the table's holes to try to corner the hamsters.

“We found out the kids would be voting on them,” Walter said. “They seem to be entertained.”

The preschoolers voted by giving their favorite designers tickets.

Sciulli and Walter's game table placed first, though teachers noted that several students forgot to hand out their tickets in their excitement.

Kelsey Shea is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6353 or kshea@tribweb.com.

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