When you walk into a lobby of any building, what’s the first thing that catches your eye? If you answered the furniture, this competition is for you.  Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship is looking for individuals with a keen eye for design to help us furnish the lobby of Tangen Hall, the new space of entrepreneurship at the University of Pennsylvania.


What is Tangen Hall?


Located on the northeast corner of 40th and Sansom streets, the project is a major student-focused development on 40th Street. The building’s design is sensitive to urban and campus contexts. The site is a center of Penn student activity, just steps from the under-construction New College House West, the 40th Street retail district, and numerous off-campus residences.

The seven-story, 68,000-square-foot building will be one of the largest hubs of its kind on any college campus. It will include incubator spaces and maker spaces to pilot student-led ventures, a test kitchen for food-centric startups, and the master’s level Integrated Product Design Program jointly operated by Wharton, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the Stuart Weitzman School of Design. Tangen Hall will also be home to the new Venture Lab, where students from across Penn’s 12 schools can turn good ideas into great outcomes.

Video courtesy of KSS Architects

Competition Overview

In anticipation of Tangen Hall’s opening, Venture Lab is hosting a furniture competition open to the Penn community as well as to members of the public.
  •  Individuals and teams are welcome to submit prototypes of furniture designs for production per the application criteria.
  • At least ten designs will be selected for fabrication, of which at least six will be Penn-affiliated submissions.
  • A cash prize of $1,000 be awarded to each winning team

Submission Guidelines

All pieces must fit at full scale in a 48×96 sheet or 60×60 sheet of plywood.

Materials: All designs will be constructed primarily from Baltic Birch plywood (i.e., Russian Birch, Europly) with a clear finish. Thicknesses of 3mm, 6mm, 9mm, 12mm, and/or 18mm may be used in the full-scale design, although the thicker materials (12mm and 18mm) are expected to be the primary materials.

Fabrication: The full-scale winning designs will be fabricated using CNC routing.

Assembly: The full-scale object must either be self-locking when assembled or require only ordinary wood glue, pneumatically installed finish nails, or hardware that can be purchased from McMaster-Carr (e.g., standard screws, rods, etc.)

Prototype Materials: Prototypes will be a 1:6 scale (2”= 1 ft) model. Prototypes may use any wood-based sheet material such as MDF or Baltic birch plywood and need not have a clear finish applied. In most cases prototypes will be made from 3mm thick material, corresponding to 18mm plywood in production. In most cases, prototypes will be laser cut. Wood glue may be used in lieu of fasteners for prototypes.

Application Materials

I. Entry Guidelines

The deadline has been extended and entries must be received before 11:59 pm PT, April 15, 2020

Those who have already e-mailed their files to Box and have mailed in their submissions should resubmit digital renderings. All other participants must submit 6 photos and/or digital renderings per the directions below (photos are preferred) of their prototypes, and a digital poster along with their applications as voting will now be held online.

The guidelines for photo submission are below:

  • All photos must be submitted in JPEG, JPG, or PNG format.
  • Photos must show a 360-degree view of the prototype (think six-sided die)
  • Photo resolution must be 3000px at minimum
  • Please use the following file name format when submitting the 6 photos: TeamName _A1, TeamName _ A2, TeamName A3-A6)
    • If submitting multiple prototypes, please format as follows: TeamName  _A1, _A2, TeamName _B1, etc.)
  • Name of individual or team name should NOT be included in any of the six photographs submitted of the prototype(s) to maintain anonymity

Submissions that meet the required criteria will be displayed online for the public voting. All participants whose submissions do not meet the required criteria will be notified directly via e-mail. Voting will now take place online from May 1-8, 2020, concluding at 11:59 pm PT on May 8th.

Photos included with the application will be assembled into a gallery where visitors can vote for their favorite designs anonymously. A link will be created and posted on the Competition webpage closer to the start of voting, where teams can share via social media and their respective channels.

II. Poster Files

  • Poster (digital) to accompany the digital prototype submissions as JPG file, no smaller than 300 PPI
  • Poster must be designed to be displayed in digital portrait mode.
  • The voting webpage will include your 6 photographs of your prototype(s) and/or digital renderings, and your poster.
  • The poster (digital) should include:
        • Team Name
          • Team member names and affiliations should NOT appear anywhere on the poster. (Evaluation of designs will be blind.)
          • ONLY include your team name in the name of the poster file EX: “SturdyShark_PosterTHFC.JPG” 
        • Name of Design(s) (call it something catchy and memorable)
        • ONLY one head-on/portrait photo of your prototype(s)
        • Description of distinctive features 
        • Evidence of ergonomic/functional performance 
        • Design metrics such as:
          • Raw materials used or intended for use (if digital rendering)
          • Total number of parts 

III. Design Files (submitted in PDF format; please see Helpful Links section for templates and examples)

  • Bill of materials, with a part number for each unique part
  • Vector design file for each custom part in the assembly
  • Vendor information and part number for any standard parts (e.g., fasteners) used in the assembly


  • January 31: Tangen Hall Furniture Competition online application opens
  • February 21: Optional feedback round submissions due
    • March 2: Feedback returned to applicants who opt-in to feedback round
  • April 15: Applications and all required materials due before 11:59 pm PT
  • May 18-June 1: Online Voting
  • June: Winners are announced and notified


What happens after the 2020-2021 school year?

  • This competition is intended to be a fun exploratory effort for the opening of Tangen Hall. Future competitions will be determined after the completion of this pilot competition.

Are there any resources for learning about designing and making stuff?

  • Please see “Helpful Links” section at the bottom of this page.

Can I work with a team member who is not affiliated with Penn?

  • Yes. The competition is open to anyone. We expect most of the participants will be Penn students, staff, and alumni, and anyone else who is interested and has the bandwidth to create a prototype.

Additional Information

  • The competition is open to any individual or team of individuals, whether affiliated with Penn or not.
  • Each distinct design should be a separate submission and a team or individual may make multiple submissions by the deadlines provided.
  • You must certify that the design is essentially your own work. (Collaboration and seeking help is fine, but copying something directly off of Etsy is not.)
  • During the fabrication process, Penn may modify the winning designs for any reason, including for ease of fabrication, compatibility with other objects selected, or to address safety or durability issues. You retain all rights to the intellectual property associated with your work, but you must allow Penn to make and use your design in Tangen Hall if selected.
  • To receive a cash award, you must be able to legally accept the funds. (This may present complications for non-US citizens depending on visa status.)
  • All prototypes and posters submitted will be freely viewable by the public during the month of April 2020 and may appear in future in photographs and other documentation of the competition.
  • As a technicality, the minimum cutter size for CNC routing will be 6mm diameter – which means that the minimum internal corner radius in your design is 3mm at full scale (i.e., no sharp internal corners). At 1/6 scale, the minimum radius would be 0.5mm. Although laser-cut 1/6 scale prototypes may have sharp internal corners, the final version of your production design must not have any internal corners with radii smaller than 3mm.
  • Prototypes will not be returned to participants, but will be able for pick up at the Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship office prior to the end of the 2020 Penn spring semester.
  • Prize money will not be awarded until and unless full-scale digital design files of the production version of the winning design are submitted by May 30, 2020.

Below are several examples developed by students in Penn’s Integrated Product Design program. These designs are in line with the type of submission that we are considering for this competition.




Workshops, classes, tutorials, and available working spaces across campus.


Below please find links to examples of furniture made by CNC routing from Baltic Birch.


Below please find links to examples of Level 1 furniture made by CNC routing from Baltic.

Questions? Contact entrepreneurship@wharton.upenn.edu with “Furniture Competition 2020” in the subject line