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Reading, Writing and ‘Rithmetic? How About Manufacturing, Marketing & Sales?

It may be a little unusual that a 17-year-old is already the CEO of a company but the venture headed by Rolando Garcia is anything but your typical firm.

The company stems from a group of classes Rolando is taking along with about 50 other students at the Grand Rapids Public Schools’ Academy of Design and Construction. The school is one of four Centers of Innovation housed at Innovation Central High School, 421 Fountain St. NE.

Classes led by teacher Andrew Abissi wanted to do something aside from the typical candy sales to raise about $600 for a 3-D printer for their school, so they tapped into the knowledge they’ve learned during Abissi’s construction graphics and design classes. Students designed and built four different styles of Adirondack chairs, taking orders for 19 of them during ArtPrize.

“My juniors and seniors drafted everything on a CAD program and developed step-by-step instructions to build it,” Abassi said. “My sophomore class was able to follow those instructions and actually build it.Company CFO Michael Schardt, 18, sands chair parts before they’re assembled

“This has been an amazing learning opportunity for them,” Abassi added. “They’ve learned about cost estimation, how to design and make their design work, marketing skills, craftsmanship, presentation skills, and just general team work.”

Using what the classes teach and more

A team from the company made a presentation to district administrators who offered to cover half the cost of the printer if the class raised the other half, which they’ve done. The class also took an historical detour, studying up on Henry Ford and discovering an assembly line would greatly benefit construction.

Rolando created the original design, elegant enough that variations could easily be made, Abissi said. Now, there are four different styles available including one in a silhouette of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, what Abissi described as a kind of Hawaiian floral design, another in the shape of a football helmet and the last including the Michigan State University logo.

“I was really excited to get into this program, but I never expected to be doing all of this,” said Rolando, who aims to become a project manager some day. “It’s pretty much giving me the experience that I’ll need in my future career and in college.”

The chairs come in painted or unpainted versions, with the painted ones costing $150 and the unpainted $100. Students can work on five chairs at a time and can finish three of the unpainted variety in a day though the painted ones take five days. The class can turn a maximum profit of about $75 on each chair, though profits depend on waste.

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