Published 18 July 2012
Posted by Stephen Holmes
Playgrounds serve the purpose of entertaining children, but when transported to Africa the energy of children can play an important role in powering more than a happier childhood.
A perfect balance of simple design and feasible manufacture, 22 year old Rosie Ansell’s play equipment is not only beneficial to the wellbeing of children, but provides a source of generating communal electricity.
“I wanted it to be an area here people could socialise – like a community hub. It was maybe more of an incentive for parents to bring their children there if they had somewhere to sit, talk with their friends and charge their devices if they did so,” says Rosie.
As part of her research she got in touch with the charity East African Playgrounds.
“They were able to use their suppliers out in Uganda to give me a full list of materials that they have available, and the costs – often per-foot or per-square foot,” explains Rosie. “So I was able to fully cost my playground and was able to only use materials that I knew would be readily available.
Additionally, a lot of the parts that make up the structural components – like car tyres - currently litter the surrounding area, and can be found in scrap yards.
The minimal amount of materials whilst maintaining a stable and rugged structure was important, incorporating a standardised kinetic dynamo to generate the electricity into the structure.
“If anything, it was the materials and the manufacturing methods that they use that dictated how the product looked. I wasn’t as worried about aesthetics, as out there you have different priorities.”
Following some initial rough sketches Rosie prefers to go straight into 3D CAD which she’s rather swift at, using SolidWorks helped her to visualise the parts quickly, while her prototype was a more gradual progression.
“My prototype was a bit different; I built it as I went along because I utilised material at the university – anything I could get my hands on – recycling the materials!”
The design is meant to be adaptable depending on the materials available, or how the locals want it to look.
“The best thing you can pass on to people with this type of project is the knowledge to do this type to thing themselves, and for them to come up with their own designs, rather than completely sticking to what I did in the first instance.”
As far as sustainable products go, its rare to see one that is not only beneficial to the environment and the users; has the scope to grow and become a useful educational tool, but also one that would put a smile on kids’ faces.
More about Rosie:
What comes now after graduation?
“I’m looking for a placement at present, but a job would obviously be preferable!”
What would be your dream job?
“I want to work within a design team as an advisor on how they can adapt products to be more sustainable, or even break in to the energy sector. At some point in the near future it would be amazing if I could persue my final year project further to help bring renewable energy technologies to developing countries as well as promoting it to people over here in the UK.”
What are your favourite product designs and designers?
“If anything I look at particular products rather than get attached to one specific designer. I like things like biomimicry, where people look at nature to solve engineering problems.”
Which product could you not live without?
“I hate to say, but my phone – I know that blind panic sometimes when you touch your pocket and you realise ‘Oh! It’s not there!’. I hate being so dependent on a piece of technology!”
See more of our New Designers coverage here:
- New Designers 2012: Our Best Finds - Part 1
- New Designers 2012: Our Best Finds - Part 2
- Top 5 Finds - No.1: Richard Burrow’s Teasmade and folding sewing machine
- Top 5 Finds - No.2: George Barrett’s Grace Folding Bicycle
- Top 5 Finds - No.3: Marco de Jesus’ super yacht
- Top 5 Finds - No.4: Nick Chubb’s Alias Birthing Chair
- Top 5 Finds - No.5: Rosie Ansell’s Electricity-generating African Playground