college of engineering white

Project 6: Outdoor Play Structure


(Design Project: Outdoor Play Structure – Team 6 Spring 2024)

This project aims to design a creative and safe kids play structure that promotes outdoor play and physical activity for the child. The design will prioritize safety features, such as sturdy materials, proper installation, and age-appropriate components. In keeping with the child’s peculiar needs, the structure will be comprised of modular sections for easy transportation and feature custom aspects such as hidden interlocking hardware mechanisms as to limit the child’s exposure to potentially unsafe building components and material surfaces. Additionally, taking the parents’ wishes into consideration, the play structure will incorporate elements that stimulate imagination and creativity, encouraging the child to engage in imaginative play. Through this project, we aim to provide a fun and engaging outdoor play experience for the child while ensuring their safety and well being.

(Left to Right) Chaim Roehrs, Andrew Johnson, Robert Lythgoe, Tyler Kinchen, Braxton Baumann

Problem Statement

The client family has requested a playset that can satisfy the child’s desire to climb and to “tunnel”. Tunneling has been described to us as a desire to find small spaces and enclosed areas to relax and feel safe. The child also loves to swing, the color pink, Minnie Mouse, and lights.

The playset must be of a height that the mother has the ability to lift the child off of the top of the playset if necessary, approx. 5.5 ft at the peak. Structurally resilient and strong enough that it can support a 300 lb. Modular and light enough to be moved by the mother. It also must be collapsible/compactable enough to be taken with them when they move later this year. They requested a small rock climbing wall and a rope “ship rigging” net for climbing. As well as a solution for the child’s “tunneling”.

Design Specifications

• 3-year-old child

• height/size of structure to match girls climbing capabilities

• parent needs to be able to reach kid on top of structure

• strive for continued engagement for several future years

• outdoor play apparatus needed • child has sensory issues

• play structure needs to be portable

• components of structure need to be extra safe

(no sharp edges, no chewable material, no choking hazards, etc.)

• child will be under supervision while playing

• child feels comfortable in semi-isolation

• structure needs to be able to hold up to 300lbs

• no rustable materials/components

• parents asking for specific features

(rock-climbing holds, “ship-rigging” climbing nets, etc.)

Background Research

• Because the family requested that the structure be easily transportable, we thought that an assembly system involving some variation of interlocking joints held sturdy with a pin or bolt would allow the family to store or transport the play structure with minimal hassle while also ensuring a rigid and safe frame.

• Our next consideration was the material for the netting and rope materials. Since natural fiber ropes are abrasive, susceptible to being damaged by the elements, and easily frayed or split, we believe that a synthetic fiber such as nylon would be more effective and efficient while also being less irritating to the children that will be using the playset. Many synthetic fibers can feel fairly soft to the touch while being sturdy and resilient which would be ideal for nets where the child or children might lounge or rest. As an additional benefit synthetic ropes are usually fast drying, and they are more resistant to mold or mildew.

• We thought that a possible addition to the playset that could add some enrichment to the playset could be a few panels of fidgets that the children could enjoy during breaks in climbing and exciting play. Possible additions could be small sets of musical items such as a xylophone or drums, interlocking gears, or a wheel full of beads.

• We wanted to add a swing to the frame, and we thought that it would be most reasonable to look to widely produced swing hardware to satisfy this need rather than creating the hardware from scratch. We thought a tire-swing style swing would be especially enjoyable as it would give the children the option to lounge on the swing and enjoy the almost weightless swaying.

• When brainstorming ideas for the structure we had the images provided by the family as well as many that we had seen online that inspired our design decisions. The most important aspects of the play structure were the climbing features and the cool dark hideaways.

Concept Design 1

The image above is a preliminary design of the play structure.

Our preliminary design is one of a wooden A-frame style structure. To satisfy the family’s need to move or reposition the structure we decided on CAMs or “Coffin-Locks” for connecting the A-frame sections. This design will remove the risk of the child disconnecting the structure and remove the risk of pinch-points. The peak of the sections will be hinged to allow the sections to fold and lay flat for storage and transport when the family moves to a new home. Additionally a tent design to satisfy the “tunneling” habits of the child will incorporate eye-bolt and carabiner connections as well as a small hammock or seat suspended inside the tent. The rock climbing wall design options are varied and will depend on the budget for the project.

Concept Design 2

Concept Design 3

Decision Matrix


2024 Spring