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Kentwood 3rd graders train with engineers

Posted at 6:55 PM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 18:55:38-04

Third grade students in east Kentwood put their design skills to the test with the help of engineers from Steelcase.

Their challenge was to come up with a product that would help someone who has limited space in a bedroom or playroom.

The winning ideas were built in Steelcase’s model shop.

“We all had to decide on one design and we actually changed the design a lot through the entire process,” said 3rd grader Madalynn Barbosu.

Welcome to Amanda Tollas’ gifted and talented class, where 8-year olds like Madalynn Barbosu have plenty to say about their design thinking projects.

“Ok, so there are toy chests, and then there are animals. Most of the time there’s not really organizational systems with animals included, right? So that’s why I thought that I could make an animal I like mixed with an organizational system. So, I picked a bird, because I like birds.”

Madalynn and her teammates; eva and ethan, is just one of the many groups in the class who came up with their own designs.

It’s a project that’s been weeks in the making.

Amanda tollas-3rd grade peaks teacher

“We defined our problem and then they started creating independently and then they met with their team to kind of come to a compromise about what would be the best design to build,” said Tollas.

It also helps when one of your students’ parents is an engineer for Steelcase who offered to turn the assignment into a bit of a competition.

Kevin still-steelcase product engineer

Well that was part of the idea was to help them with an idea they can use and then we said well how about we’ll see if we can make it for you when they come up with the final design, “ said Kevin Still , a Steelcase product engineer.

Final designs in place, the students voted for their winning prototype.

"There were two other groups that we thought would win. It was Arianna’s group and Ellen’s group because their designs were both really good, but I felt like our design would win because it’s like colorful and cute," he said.

Mrs. Tollas says she’s very pleased with her class first-go at the challenge.

“I kept telling them, I’m like, “you’re doing what high schoolers and middle schoolers are doing right now and what adults do in real life. These are what people do for a living working at Steelcase.”

These young engineers will get their first look at the finished product later this week at a showcase event in Kentwood.