Anyone who has been through earthquake drills in school knows the standard defense against falling debris is for students to crawl under their desks. Unfortunately, while this might block a few pieces of stray drywall and glass, a wooden desk isn't going to withstand the crushing weight from large chunks of concrete or steel. In fact, people hiding under their desks could very likely become trapped with no way out. That's why two designers have developed an "earthquake-proof" desk that can absorb the impact of up to a ton of weight and even provide emergency routes for rescue crews to reach trapped students.
Arthur Brutter and Ido Bruno built the desk as their final project at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, and then presented it as part of the school's Design Bonanza exhibit in Milan, Italy. When designing it, the two students had to consider not just the durability of the desk, but also how it would be used every day in the classroom. To keep the weight down so it could be moved easily by students and teachers, they settled on outfitting each corner of the school desk with collapsible "crush zones" that distribute the brunt of an impact to the edges, rather than the middle. They also constructed it from inexpensive materials to keep the final product at an affordable price for schools.
Finally the desk was submitted to a battery of tests by having different materials of different weights dropped on it from a height. The designers dropped solid blocks of steel and concrete as well as bags of rocks weighing up to 1,000 kg (about 1 ton) onto their desk. Each time, the top of the desk was destroyed, but the bottom remained intact, giving students enough space to remain safe from harm. With the desks lined up in rows, this space could also act as escape tunnels for students to escape or be more easily rescued by emergency workers.
Brutter and Bruno are currently awaiting a patent and official approval from Padua University in Italy so they can begin distributing their desks to disaster-prone areas around the world.
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