Cardboard Chair Project

Cardboard Chair Project

Teacher: Kathy Rosenmann

Grade: 6, 7, and 8th grade

Subject areas: Engineering, Math, Art

Project Overview

No glue. No tape. Just cardboard, knives and genius.

Community workshop students designed full scale chairs that could hold the weight of an adult. No adhesives of any kind were allowed- students relied on their knowledge of the engineering design process, geometry and support structures to build their chairs.

At the outset of the project, students were introduced to the mountains of cardboard that had accumulated after the school supplies were unpacked in August. A discussion of resources and waste ensued!  We then generated concepts by researching ergonomic chair designs. Students sketched ideas, defended their designs in collaborative teams, and then decided on a final design.  After dimensioning multi-view sketches, they built prototypes from cereal boxes and tested their designs. Finally, students spent weeks constructing and testing their chairs before presenting the final product. Students worked tirelessly and should be congratulated- the end results were spectacular!

Essential question:  How can we reduce waste by reusing cardboard?


  • Research and understand the impacts of resource use and misuse
  • Design and build an aesthetically pleasing and original chair built entirely of cardboard using no glue or adhesives of any kind
  • Chair must be at least 17” off the ground
  • Chair must have a backrest (aka- no benches or stools)
  • Chair must successfully hold the weight of an adult – approx 120lbs.


August-September: Step 1: Introduction


  • Understand the Design Process
  • Understand project deliverables and grading for the entire project

September : Step 2: Aesthetics and Marketability

What makes a chair visually attractive? What makes a chair desirable and novel?

September: Step 3: Ergonomics

Why is a chair comfortable?

September:  Step 4: Construction Techniques

How to create joints and structural systems from cardboard (without glue)

September: Step 5: Rapid Prototypes

Quickly brainstorm ideas

September: Step 5: Scale Models

Objectives: Revise and finalize design. Construct a 3-D model from chipboard that is proportionally accurate.

October: Step 6: Patterns

Objectives: Translate a design from a 3-D model to 2-D. Create a pattern for the final chair

October – December Step 9: Final Construction

Objectives: Build the final chair from cardboard obeying all safety procedures. Develop craftsmanship, scoring, cutting and assembly techniques. Problem solve when “issues” occur.


Natasha, Ilan, Dimitri, Noah

Cardboard Chair Project

            It is estimated that over one hundred trees are being cut down per minute, totaling to 15 billion trees a year. Many of these trees are being used to produce new cardboard every year. In fact, over 90% of all shipped goods are packaged in cardboard – everything from TVs to french fries. So much cardboard is being used every day! So what happens to all this cardboard? Much of it is recycled, but recycling takes a lot of energy and resources. A more sustainable solution is to reuse or repurpose the cardboard. The cardboard chair project tasked us with reusing the hundreds of pounds of cardboard that would have been sent to the recycling center. Another objective of the project was to apply the engineering design process to research, design, and build a comfortable, ergonomic chair.

            After carefully considering the criteria and constraints for the project, we began to generate ideas. We looked up design ideas to inspire us before making our individual sketches. Then we got together to discuss and show each other our sketches to decide on the final design. We ended up taking some good ideas from each of the sketches, some more than others. We did not use a formal design matrix, but we did spend a lot of time deciding on our design. Our design has a top piece that goes into the bottom piece, which allowed us to divide and conquer throughout the building process. Noah and Dimitri worked on the bottom piece while Ilan and Natasha worked on the top piece. The bottom piece was like the seat, while the top piece was the back support. Near the end of the project, we added armrests.

            Finally, our project does meet the requirements of the cardboard project. Our project is a cardboard armrest chair!