Tension Table and Structural Design

Ms. Rangel’s Introduction to Structural Design class is a math intensive course that introduces students to structural behavior and design. Students in this class learn key concepts of structural stability, material behavior, equilibrium and design, as well as basic structural engineering terminology. 

This past semester, the students put their understanding of the fundamental engineering principles to use in their creation of a tension table – a table with no solid legs supported by the tension of chains. From planning the design, to creating to-scale drawings, to constructing the table, the students did it all. “Our table project truly allowed me to experience the engineering process from design to construction,”  said Addie Martins (‘22).

The students started the project by learning how to create engineering drawings to scale. They each thought of an original design that included aspects of tension and balance, planned how big they wanted them to be, and considered different materials for construction. After their plans were complete, the students then voted on a design, incorporating ideas from each, and began their search for construction materials. Ultimately, they decided to use entirely recycled products

With the planning complete, construction of the table began. Students worked together, with guidance from retired contractor, Alex Rangel, to measure, cut, and assemble the various pieces. Mr. Rangel “… really enjoyed it. I thought it was a really cool project and I was glad to be part of it. They did a really good job!” They even put their own personal touch on the table by wood-burning their names on the side.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. During construction, the class experienced minor design flaws that caused their table to collapse and had to reimagine their original plan. They successfully created an extra support to bear some of the tabletop loads and gained valuable experience.“This was such a great opportunity to see what goes into constructing something, and I had a lot of fun collaborating with everyone to plan, build, and troubleshoot it,” said Nathalie Forsythe (‘22).

The project was a huge success, truly allowing the students to put their theoretical knowledge into practice. “I got a real taste of what it is like to be an engineer, which only made me love the subject even more. I look forward to our next class project to see what other problems we can find and solve together,” said MaryGrace Kane (‘23). The Structural Design tension table can now be seen in the great hall!