Dyer Brown's mentor teams take home 1st and 2nd place at The Furniture Trust's 2016 Eco-Carpentry Challenge

5 May 2016

On April 28th, Dyer Brown’s Alex Dupnik and Karen Bala led Worcester Alternative School and Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School, respectively, to take first and second place within their categories, in the 2016 Eco-Carpentry Challenge.

Hosted annually by The Furniture Trust, an organization that reinvests used and unwanted office furniture into local communities, the challenge provides an opportunity for high school students to develop carpentry skills and create a better understanding of our society’s commitment to sustainability through the process of “upcycling” used office furniture.

This year’s competition consisted of nine participating schools, each paired with a mentor from the local AEC community. The panel of judges included representatives from Haworth, Biogen, Spry Moving, Liberty Mutual Insurance and New England Carpenters Training Fund.

The teams of students, with the help of teachers and their mentor, started the process of transforming used pieces of furniture, donated by The Furniture Trust, into a chosen theme. Because each school’s curriculum varies with the amount of time dedicated during the school day to skills-based learning, each team is entered into a specific category that best represents their school’s program. For Alex’s team (Worcester Alternative), they competed in the “Small Shop” category, while Karen’s team (Whittier Tech) competed in the “Large Shop” category.

Both Karen and Alex visited the schools multiple times throughout the 6-month duration to assist and encourage the students in the creation and delivery of their final products. With Whittier Tech’s curriculum being so heavily focused on skills and specialized training, Karen reflects back on her initial visit to the school. “The first time I visited the team, I was amazed on the level of craft each student had as they presented their projects to me. They chose to design an outdoor scene and created picnic tables, lounge seating, even dice and horseshoes games. You could see their skill level through the tiniest of details they thought to put into each piece,” she said. Realizing her role as a mentor would be more focused on confidence-building rather than skills-building Karen showed the students a recent Dyer Brown design presentation. She explained how the final design came about – from the initial inspiration/storytelling to conceptual ideas to the final 3D renderings – giving them ideas for how and what they could present to the judges.

Alex’s team from Worcester Alternative School chose an urban dwelling theme for their project called “A Trashed Apartment” resulting in every recycled piece having multiple functions. Acting as their cheerleader, Alex gave advice on detailing their designs to provide more flexibility with minor tweaks. By the end of the project, the students were so inspired by the project, they wrote and recorded, with the help of Alex, a rap music video for their final presentation. Reflecting back on their final (winning) presentation, Alex said “I didn’t realize how much I was going to get out of this experience. At the beginning of the night, you could tell the students were very nervous. By the end of the night and by the time the judges came around, they weren’t nervous at all! They had fun working on the project however they didn’t anticipate winning, so it was really exciting for them.”

To learn more about The Furniture Trust and the Eco-Carpentry Challenge, visit the following website for more information and images on this annual event:

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