Students redesign the classic locker at one Michiana school

By: Frank Waugh Email
By: Frank Waugh Email

Traditional school lockers are sometimes tricky to use, can be fairly basic in design and are often scattered across the school; and in many cases, they are no longer meeting the needs of students as classes change and schools grow.

That's why one high school in Michiana is using this problem as a way to get students to rethink storage.

When the bell rings at Penn High School, students flood the hallways rushing off to their next class. The scene looks fairly typical except for one thing: students rarely use their lockers.

“I have not touched my locker, I don't even know where it is this year," said student Colton Mambeck.

"I don't know where it is, I don't even know my pass code," said student Hannah Marker.

"I don't use my locker at all, I just keep everything in my book bag and bring my books home," said student Jansen Utech.

Narrow in size and inconvenient locations are just a few reasons these lockers get limited use and that gave Whirlpool Senior Manager Dan Lockwitz an idea.

“We know the lockers weren't being used, so what could we do to help come up with a commercial solution for storage in the school, Gladiator came right to mind," Lockwitz said.

With that, a partnership between the school and Whirlpool's Gladiator brand was formed. Students met with the company, became familiar with the products by assembling several storage units and set about brainstorming ways they could solve the problem that plagues Penn.

"Some of them focused on locker design, some of them focused on storage inside the classroom, some of them actually looked at what teachers do everyday and focused on how teachers can store things more efficiently," said PHM engineering and design teacher Jim Langfeldt.

"We decided that lockers are one of the biggest uses of storage space in the school, they are everywhere," Marker said. "If people aren't using them that is a lot of space that is not being used.”

“There was like no constraints on what we could do, we could just take it in whatever direction we wanted to, so it is all our ideas, its not like we are being told we had to do something, we are able to be more creative with it," said Mambeck.

Their original design ideas are being put on paper and eventually the computer screen. Once completed, the students will present their ideas before a panel of judges from the Gladiator division of Whirlpool and there is even a chance that these designs could lead to future products.

“I know that Gladiator division is primarily focused in the garage so it is not really focused in a public school like this, but at the same time maybe they are going to see something that these kids have put together that could potentially help them develop a new product which would be very exciting for the students," said Langfeldt.

“You never know, you get a hundred ideas and you get one that is useful so that is what we are really hoping something that is commercially viable for storage in the school," Lockwitz said.

Regardless of whether these designs ever see the production line, both teachers and students are excited and happy with the project.

“I am excited about seeing the actual product, right now they are just ideas, we have drawn a few sketches," Utech said. "So it is just exciting to see what it is going to be.”

“I think the power of this project is the sky is the limit," Lanfeldt said. "Our kids are so diverse and so different, we have so many different things happening here in the building, and it is kind of fun because the kids bring their flavor of life.”

Lockwitz hopes the partnership between Penn and Whirlpool can become a permanent fixture in the school.

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