By: Sam Crosby
With WMSi’s move into our exciting new location in Littleton, we found ourselves with far more space than ever before. With this space came the ability to be more purposeful in our design and use of the room. We host everything from summer camps to teacher professional development events in our maker space, so flexibility is key. This was our primary motivation when it came to creating tables for the space.
As with most design projects, our tables started out with just an idea--or several, rather. We wanted the table tops to be able to flip vertical with a whiteboard surface, we needed them to roll, and we needed them to be sturdy enough to serve as work benches while retaining a professional appearance.
Naturally, we did consider commercially available options as well, but the tables within our budget did not meet all of our design criteria. With a shop and my time at our disposal this summer, we decided to engineer & design our own WMSi tables. While this met our design constraints, we also gained the less tangible benefit of communication of WMSi ideals and branding. By showcasing how we use the engineering process in a real-life application with a budget of several thousand dollars and a timeframe of a couple months, we demonstrate the reasoning for the use of this process in our camps. It can at times be challenging for some of our younger campers to make the connection between camp projects and real-life applications, and telling the backstory of the very tables they sit at could illuminate this connection.
Using our CAD and laser cutting tools, I created a model-scale prototype to prove the concept for our table design. Using a simple T-slot in the top bracket, we gained the flip top functionality without the need for hinges. Using the CNC machine only for the small bracket and utilizing simple 2x4 framing for the rest, costs were kept down while strength was maintained. The laser cutter allowed for rapid prototyping as several changes were made to increase stability. The models also proved their value when I presented to the whole team, in that having a visual to go along with our discussion and decision-making process helped everyone picture the more abstract ideas better. This part was instrumental in bringing the WMSi table from idea to reality.
Once the team was satisfied with how the small-scale prototype operated, I began construction on a full-scale prototype. Based on experiences with this, we continued to follow the engineering process as a means to inform the many changes we made to the design. In the below picture, I am adding the caster wheels and compensating for their additional height by dropping the mounting point down for the top bracket.
With our concept proven at both model and full-scale with prototypes, I began constructing the remaining 6 tables we needed. The base portions shown in the photo above were straightforward, but we continued to iterate on the design for the tabletops themselves. Early on, WMSi learned how awesome whiteboard tables are, so this was a paramount aspect of the tops. The challenge was to make the weak, low-quality showerboard into a sturdy and reasonably professional-looking tabletop. By laminating with plywood, finishing the edges with paint, and adding oak edge stripping, we mostly achieved this. In WMSi fashion though, we have identified several changes we would make to the tops the next time around. Yet again, the engineering process at work with our WMSi tables!