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Inspiring the next generation of designers, builders, and creators

Irongate School students step up as table designers, testing their creativity and our capabilities.

We understand the importance of practical learning opportunities, so we were delighted to welcome a group of year 6 students at Irongate School, Hawke’s Bay to our factory. Rangi, a former Furnware employee, and now a teacher, knows the value of real-life learning opportunities. He reached out to us, to help give his students some practical experience. Having worked in the factory, he understood its complexity and wanted his students to gain valuable insights into real life workplaces, assembly lines, and manufacturing plants.
The main aim of the visit was to provide the children with an understanding of the different sectors of a manufacturing organisation, as well as highlighting potential future job pathways. We also thought it would be a great idea to encourage the students to think about what it takes to design and build products they use every day. Was there something they might see that could spark a career idea?
The visit started with a welcome and a safety briefing, explaining the importance of personal protective equipment. While having fun was a priority, Group Design and Engineering Manager, Rob, ensured the students were aware of the potential hazards when entering a factory. They were then given a quick overview of Furnware’s history, dating back to the 1930’s.

Working in teams, the students’ first activity was to assemble a rocking chair, much like a 3D puzzle, and write instructions, sparking thoughts about product assembly and the different parts that make up a chair.
Next, the students put on high vis vests, ear plugs, and safety glasses and went on a factory tour. Our main manufacturing hub is in Hastings, New Zealand, and ships internationally. Our factory has five divisions including production, warehouse, maintenance, planning, and purchasing. The students were led through the factory by our staff, who answered any and all questions.

Students step up as the designers and we listened.
Full of inspiration and ideas, their next challenge was to design a table. They had to think about things like, “Where will the table go in your classroom?”, “What shape will it be?”, “What colour?”, “Standing or sitting height?”. This sparked ideas around design, collaboration, and visual problem solving. We always learn from students, and this group had some amazing ideas, including an octopus shaped table, a Koru shaped table inspired by the Māori spiral shape, a “Donut table” with a lifting flap so the teacher could sit in the middle, and a Waka shaped table, inspired by a Māori canoe, so the class could work as one team. Creative and complex!
 
At Furnware, one of the most exciting steps is bringing designs to life, so we decided to do that with one of students’ designs. Junior Industrial Designer, Emma said she “streamlined and adapted their concepts into a practical and production-ready product”, adjusting the chosen design based on our factory’s capabilities.

“This resulted in a unique design, inspired by the Paparoa table, featuring the distinctive inlayed Mangōpare motif – a hammerhead shark symbol known for its representation of strong will and determination.”

Emma - Junior Industrial Designer, Furnware

Production team mocked up the design using their 2D render program

Our factory staff loved the challenge, pushing the boundaries and creating something new. Furnware delivered the table to a very happy classroom of students, with a new appreciation of what it takes to design and assemble a table.
 
We recognise every learning opportunity, both inside and outside the classroom. So, it was our enormous pleasure to host Irongate students and give them a behind-the-scenes insight into making great products. While the students learned a lot, they also shared an awful lot with us too – it’s always about learning together.
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