A quote that is read when one walks into the early learning centre I am working with:
" A hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of car you drove, what kind of house you lived in, how much money you had in the bank... But the world may be a better place because you made a difference in the life of a child."
I am currently completing the Honours course in Integrated Product Design at the University of Technology, Sydney. The course is a self-directed research project, that involves writing a thesis and producing a finished design.
I have spent the year researching and designing an interactive log splitting device so that the children at daycares having fires, may participate in the process that comes before lighting one - splitting logs. I began working closely with a progressive early learning centre during the middle of this year
Essentially I believe that society is becoming overly cautious in the way that we bring up our children. It seems to be assumed that by removing risk, children will be able to play in a safer environment. However, this approach fails to acknowledge risk taking as a positive feature of children's play and in their learning process. By removing risk, we are depriving children of the chance to learn essential skills that are part of growing up. Involvement in risky play affords children the opportunity to practice risk mitigation, and to learn how to manage difficult situations. Risky play gives children the opportunity to extend their limits of comfort and learn valuable life skills. It has also been shown to not only be fun, but essential for the development of their motor skills, balance, coordination and body awareness.
Fire & Daycare
In 2017, the University of Newcastle began a study with some early learning centres in Australia that incorporated the principles of Risky Play into their curriculum (PhD ). An element of this involved the centres having fires at lunchtime, that the children could interact with (fire in daycare ). And so, I wanted to explore how children might be able to participate in the process that comes before lighting a fire; splitting wood.
How can product design add value to the child developmental theory of Risky Play?
To explore this concept, I have created an interactive, spring loaded, log splitting machine designed for children.
Children work together to rotate a ring, which acts as a lever, to slowly drive down a spring loaded axe into a log.
As the axe comes into contact with the log, the spring begins to compress, helping the children to visualise the force involved, and to build up anticipation. Eventually the log reaches a critical point, and as it starts to split, the spring and the axe unload, shooting the axe into the log, helping it to split. It offers an exciting reward for the children's work. They will be protected with a removable plexiglass shield around the support structure.
I have built and tested an experience prototype with the children from the early learning centre I am working with, and I was able to prove my concept. The children were quite excited by the whole process, and the centre's director believed the machine offered the children a range of valuable lessons.
Constructing the Prototype
In the last month, after a number of meetings, I have enlisted the help of the technicians in the Engineering Faculty to construct and build my final prototype. I am the first to connect the Design and Engineering faculties for an Honours project. The technicians believed it was for a good cause, and were happy to help. It has been a valuable learning experience for me in working with them and managing the build.
However, building a machine like this, where safety is paramount, is not cheap. I have recently taken out a loan, but need some more money to get the project finished to a high standard.
Below are a rough outline of some of the costs.
Fabrication - ($10000+ but Free through Engineering)
Custom Spring - $120
3d Printing - $350
Steel - $180
Powder Coating - $800
Printing Thesis - $400
Steel Bending - $450
ACME Screw & Bearings - $160
Plexiglass Safety Screen Material & Bending - $900
Miscellaneous - $400
Exhibition Printing -$125
Some where around $3885.
This will help me to finish the project to a high standard, for our public exhibition in November.
I will give thanks to you in my thesis, and at the exhibition.
A/Prof. David Eager, acting Head of School, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering - University of Technology Sydney, and internationally recognised expert on the safety aspects of playgrounds and playsurfaces - writes;
“Monte has demonstrated a blend of initiative, creativity, innovation, lateral thinking and perseverance in delivering this project. He has combined a healthy level of childhood risk exposure with the joy of learning. A really great example of age appropriate risk exposure that is often missing in today’s risk averse society.”
I am in talks, and hope to explore the possibility of situating the machine in the Museum of Applied Art and Science (Powerhouse) in 2018.
Thank you very much,
Spring axe mechanism
Log Splitter with shield
Plastix preparing to bend the plexiglass
Reviewing their work
Spring and axe head awaiting coating.
That is untreated steel, displaying the different temperatures it once was.
Prototype for construction in the engineering workshop.
Earlier concept that is too time-consuming to construct now.
Rolling of the base and ring.
Mechanism and drive system.
- Lesley Bryant
- Peter Hürlimann
- Miles Chalmers
- Nina Blackwell