Furniture designer scoops award for school chair at Undergraduate Awards ceremony

A school chair that could reduce back problems in children and help improve their concentration has earned a young furniture designer a major award.

With children sitting for nearly two years of their lives by the time they finish primary school, Katharine Griffith set out to design and make a chair and desk that encouraged natural posture.

The research for her furniture design and manufacture degree at Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology’s Letterfrack college earned her the national prize in the engineering and mechanical sciences category of the 2013 Undergraduate Awards.

Katherine’s project sought to respond to problems with how children’s bodies are affected by sitting on a normal, right-angled chair. She designed an adjustable chair and desk, which were tested with the help of local primary school pupils.

The chair’s seat and back rest are made from birch ply with a layer of formica, with a metal bracket to adjust height.

An angle to the front of the legs allows pupils to tilt forward while keeping their backs in the natural position against the reclined backrest. Ms Griffith found in testing that use of this feature while pupils worked at their desks promoted natural posture.

Although only an initial prototype table was completed, her finished prototype chair could be sold near the upper range of prices for school furniture currently available if it was put into large-scale production.

More than 70 students from around the world attended the three-day Undergraduate Awards Global Summit in Dublin last week, with awards for Irish and international winners in more than 20 categories.

They were chosen from hundreds of international students who submitted coursework and research at primary degree level for consideration in the fifth year of the awards. Most of the overseas winners were from Britain, the US, and Canada, with entries on topics ranging from foraging patterns in chipmunks to moral faith in the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.


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