Earlier this year, winds in Eagar, Arizona, got up to speeds of 80 mph, and the jungle gym on the playground at the Boys and Girls Club of Round Valley took flight and landed in a nearby field. It took a dozen kids to roll the piece of equipment, the “flying jungle gym” as they now call it, back to the club. But it is no longer safe to use. So, with the help of The Design School in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the kids are designing brand new playground equipment.
“My career has been focused on using design to improve the lives of kids and families,” said Collin Smith, clinical assistant professor in The Design School. “When I heard about the Boys and Girls Club playground blowing away, I knew I could help get the kids a cool new play space.”
Smith and a group of 11 students from The Design School are collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club of Round Valley on the designs for the new play equipment.
“We have worked very closely with the governing board of the Boys and Girls Club, but just as importantly with the kids to design and create this space together,” Smith said. “The kids have given hours of input, and we’ve done a week’s worth of collaboration and research with the kids to come up with a space that everybody is invested in.”
The play space they are designing is intended to work in different types of weather, to support children of all ages and to be built using as many local resources as possible.
The community is nestled in a thick forest that is maintained by logging companies, and they plan to use local logs and wood to create three play areas that flow together using different heights, interactivity and physicality, according to Smith.
The ASU undergraduate and graduate students participating in the project are all from The Design School and include students studying industrial design, architecture and visual communications. They traveled to Eagar at the beginning of the summer, and once they are finished they plan to return to the Boys and Girls Club to help install the equipment. The work the ASU students are doing, including prototyping, testing and perfecting the designs, fulfils their required internship for graduation.
“Any time there is a chance to combine your work and your passion with community service, I believe you should take it, and that’s exactly what these ASU students are doing,” Smith said. “They are having an internship experience that has a very similar day-to-day feel as the jobs many of them will take after college, plus they are building something meaningful for a community that really needs it.”
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