Sustainable Materials and Technology (SMT) 441 – Mechanical Properties- introduces students to concepts of stress, axial loading, bending theories, orthotropic elasticity of laminates, and buckling of columns, and more. The focus is on plant-based materials and renewable resources. Beyond classroom and lab calculations, to broaden student’s understanding of the material, Professor Perry Peralta offered students a woodworking opportunity through the NC State Craft Center. Hungry to get their hands working, students committed five evenings of time outside the classroom to build something of their own. As one student put it, “It was helpful to conceptualize theory in mechanical properties through a real-life application, with the added bonus of taking home a product I could actually use.”
Milling, Planing and Building
NC State’s Crafts Center is a place where creative skill and self-expression are fostered through the making and sharing of art and craft. The center provides hands-on learning, student jobs, student-only classes and outreach opportunities to assist in the development of lifelong skills and knowledge. The Crafts Center is open to both students and the public for studio and class use.
Wood Studio Manager John Metzler said, “This table project class is our introductory class, ‘How to use Woodshop Machines and Handtools’. The students started with minimal knowledge of woodworking. This class taught students our machines and hand tools ranging from milling rough lumber to using a block plane to chamfer edges and even using our ShopBot CNC to put a custom inlay on their tabletops. The completion of this class allows the students to be qualified to purchase a studio membership to come in and work on their own projects.”
Creative Freedom and a Leap of Faith
Senior Anna Schraufnagel said, “My favorite part of the experience was coming in as someone very uncomfortable and unfamiliar with power tools and emerging with more knowledge and confidence. The most challenging part of the experience was letting go of my fear of the saws! I was surprised to discover just how much work and time goes into even a small and fairly simple piece of furniture.”
For 2019 graduate Jack Hutchinson, “The most challenging part of the class was the creation of the table top itself. The tabletop allowed for the most creative freedom. This creative freedom can be scary because you have to make sure that your final product matches your original vision. It is the one step of the project where you are on your own to utilize all the techniques and machines you have learned.”
Students reported what they perceived as unexpected benefits of the course — a sense of pride and a deeper connection to peers. “I felt proud to show my friends and family and pretty much everyone I know the table I had built.”
“It was nice to spend time and share this experience with my classmates in a fun and challenging environment, outside of class.”
Looking to the future, Dr. Peralta says, the program plans to collaborate with the Craft Center on a regular basis.