Project Examples

Playground Ride Safety Analysis

Course: 22.213 - Dynamics
Semester: Spring 2006
Instructors: Faize Jamil and John Duffy
Partner: Local playgrounds: Pingree Park, Hamilton-Wenham Recreation Department, MA; Roudenbush Community Center, Westford, MA; Holden Recreation Area, Holden, MA; and Heath Brook Elementary School, Tewksbury, MA

The overall goal of this S-L project was to provide students with an opportunity to apply theory and tools of engineering dynamics to an actual system in addition to opportunities to help local communities and integrate similar assistance for international communities (such as the Peru Village Empowerment S-L program). Two of the suggested miniprojects were design oriented and more open-ended. Whereas, the third S-L miniproject suggested was a safety analysis and was more structured.

During the Dynamics course students were encouraged to work in groups of two to three persons for the S-L project. Working groups of students selected one of two suggested miniproject playground sites; or proposed one of their own. Students surveyed, analyzed and evaluated inherent safety hazards of playground designs, spacing, surfacing materials and equipment, turned in a joint group report. Students finalized their playground assessment and suggested improvements in a report that was shared with community partners (listed above).

By the end of the course and s-l project, students reported increased awareness of engineering roles that contribute to increased safety capacity as a part of engineering design and assessment. Communities also received benefit through a specific set of playground recommendations for improved safety. These s-l design and safety assessments can better inform local decision-making processes regarding playground construction, improvements and helpful maintenance.

Mechanical engineering students helped to evaluate and improve the safety of local playgrounds. With their knowledge of dynamics, they began to estimate the speed, forces, momentum, and potential injuries to children on various playground devices and recommend safety improvements. Technical objectives of the miniproject included:

  1. Estimating the maximum speed of children on various rides, including swings, slides (straight and helical), and merry-go-rounds.
  2. Estimating the potential forces exerted on the children by the rides and by other children coming off the rides by exiting or falling off.
  3. Estimating the impact of children hitting the ground from exiting or falling off the rides.
  4. Informing the local community about maximum speeds, forces, and impacts on children on local playground equipment and the potential for injuries.
  5. Suggesting improvements to the playgrounds in general (e.g., surface material, warning signs) and to designs of the rides (e.g., railings) to make them safer.

The learning objectives for this miniproject included:

  • Application of the theory of kinematics to estimate the velocity, acceleration, forces, momentum, and impact on children of typical playground rides,
  • Evaluation of the potential positive and negative impacts of the technology on the local community,
  • Writing a report describing the analysis, results, conclusions, and suggestions of the miniproject. Composing a letter to parents and community groups with information important to them. Work on multi-disciplinary teams