These kids don’t have super-human strength. The couch they are carrying is made from cardboard. Recycled cardboard. Cardboard specially manufactured in Sweden and produced by local Melbourne company Boxwars using 3D design software tools from Autodesk.
The cardboard couch, on display at the Autodesk exhibit at the World Engineers Convention – the ‘Olympics of Engineering’ recently held in Melbourne, is strong enough for adults to sit on, but light enough to be lifted by children.
Carried into place by Maggie and Gus Reidy, the couch has now taken up permanent residence in the Fitzroy North Primary School library. This is thanks to Coretext writer Catherine Norwood, who on attending the convention entered a competition to describe in 25 words or less why she should win it.
In her entry, she said she would donate it to the school (attended by a fellow Coretexter’s children) where it could be used in any number ways. There’s the practical, literal application of course but beyond that, it provides an ample pad from which inquiring minds can launch.
This started with the ooohs, aaaahs and questions - so many questions - that greeted the couch’s arrival. “What is that? It’s a couch? How can it be so light? Surely we can’t sit on it? We can? How on earth can it be made of cardboard?”
The cardboard couch is a lot more than a piece of furniture. It will open young minds to some of the challenges of our times, invite questions and even inspire them to be part of the solution.
The answers begin with the raw material itself. Re-board technology – manufactured and imported from Sweden - is a rigid engineered paperboard using recycled fibres. With a unique engineered fluted core, the material is incredibly lightweight, yet exceptionally strong, and could help eliminate the need for plastic boards such as MDF.
When combined with the Autodesk tools and the creativity of Boxwars, the couch was born. And while initially serving as a source of fascination for the students, it can also be used by teachers to inspire new lessons around big picture issues including sustainability, engineering and design for the future.
‘Engineering a Sustainable World: The next 100 years’ was the theme of the convention that brought together 3000 engineers, researchers and industry leaders from around the world – and the generosity of Autodesk in gifting the couch to the school will spark young minds about the prospects.
Coretext attended for the University of Melbourne - a premier partner of the convention – reporting on key concepts and cutting edge, world-shaping practice presented by School of Engineering Dean Professor Mark Cassidy in a keynote address, and several other leading university researchers, as well as responses from student delegates
Among these concepts was the emergence of AI and its associated ethical conundrums, managing water scarcity, urban redevelopment and biomedical implants - or functional replacement body parts.
Against this backdrop, the cardboard couch is a lot more than a piece of furniture. It will open young minds to some of the challenges of our times, invite questions and even inspire them to be part of the solution. While putting their feet up.