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A Powerful Playground !

Kids have energy. There's no doubt about that. Their favorite part of school is recess and they can't wait to get outside. What if we could use all of this energy to power places in our community, including our schools? Tiger Energy Biscuits, a Kraft company, used this same idea to build a playground. They partnered with a local university in the Philippines, working one year to create a playground that could capture energy used on the equipment to power their local community. This can be even more advanced, using other technology such as energy capturing tiles currently used at stadiums. This is a learning opportunity for kids and become cost effective for communities, and promote a school or business in the process.

Photo of Andrea Zelenak

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A community could power a community.
How amazing does that sound?

If a city wanted to implement a playground like this, they could use the resources and people inside their city to power it, saving money and the environment.

First, they could look to local colleges and universities to jump-start this project.

This is a learning opportunity.
What better way is there for students to learn about mechanisms and energy than creating a real life energy storing playground. Even high schoolers or first graders can see this as a learning opportunity to understand energy, and ways to protect the planet.
(This could be little to no cost to the city)

This can save the City.
A lot of cities are struggling with finances and looking for any way to save a dime. Even a city is well-off, there are always places extra money can go. Kraft used the playground for publicity, increasing the Tiger Biscuit sales 382%. Companies can sponsor the playground, creating advertising for them, and becoming even less of an expense for the city.

Above all, this is promoting health.
By providing more opportunities for play, this is providing more opportunities for health. This can be put in place for cities who can't afford parks on their own, overall creating a better community.

Before even seeing the Tiger Energy playground, I could picture a current playground slowly evolve into a complete self-sustaining environment. Already existing playgrounds can be slowly changed, recycling and parts that already exhist and evolving them into powerful and playful games for kids.

What community does this idea benefit and who are the main players?

The community: The cool thing about this is that it can be placed into any community. A community could plant a park, transform a park, add it to their schools, implement this into malls, theme-parks, anything! Once a community invests the time into making one, the parts and playground can be easily re-created for another location or purpose. If a city just wanted one swing set, they could just start out with that. With the money they save, they could grow their playground and their investment into even more opportunities for reusable energy. The people: Being a college student, I'm always looking for opportunities for projects like this to use my talents and make an impact, and I know I'm not the only one. Schools will want to be a part of this if it gives exposure to their university, and the opportunity for students to have a real-life experience. The kids: When I was a kid, we used to convince my teacher to give us extra recess. I know in second grade I would have so many questions of how the playground worked and why we were doing it. This could even be a fun way for schools and students to compete. They could see which class created the most energy, competing against their friends or even schools competing against schools. The city: This could create so much publicity for the city and others involved, going green is always a trend, and this is a cool way to promote it.

How does your idea specifically help your community rapidly transition to renewables?

This idea isn't just about changing light-bulbs. This is about creating sustainable playgrounds that can power a city for years and years. Renewable energy, our focus is trying to change and develop things that already exist such as the oil industry, when we should be looking to completely new ideas (like Open IDEO is doing). If people want to have an impact on their planet, instead of waiting on someone else to change their energy, a community can start this on their own. They don't need to wait for a big company or organization, they can start making environmental change on their own!

What early, lightweight experiment can you try out in your own community to find out if the idea will meet your expectations?

1. Classes can start the discussion of energy, and start to brainstorm their own ideas and concepts for creating this renewable playground. This is the most cost effective and easiest way to see the potential of this project. 2. Communities can host an even, putting things such as sustainable dance floors can be put in place to see how much energy a group of people can actually create! Their interest might start the discussion of putting this in place. 3. The company Playground Energy uses the energy from children, to create a better playground experience by adding light and sound with their energy used. Even just putting one of these items in place, you can begin to see value in the energy of kids.

What skills, input or guidance are you keen to connect with from the OpenIDEO community to help you build out or refine your idea further?

This idea is good, but it can be something even greater. Post your input on how we can evolve this into something amazing! How can this playground improve your community? Are there any other pieces of technology out there that support this idea? How can we make this already existing idea better? How can this be tied into idea of a power-producing gym?

Please indicate which type of energy is most relevant to this post:

  • A combination of various types of renewable energy

This idea emerged from:

  • An Individual


Join the conversation:

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi Ange,

Neat idea! I have an idea pretty similar to yours (I'm including a link at the bottom) and Bettina/Janice were kind enough to share these articles with me so I'm re-sharing them with you. I think they could be beneficial to your idea as well. - This article is a great resource on Informal Science Learning in Museum Playgrounds

Again, our ideas have a bit of overlap, so feel free to look at my idea and I'd love to collaborate with you further!

Looking forward to collaborating!

Photo of Andrea Zelenak

Thanks for letting me know! I just looked over your idea and comments! You have a great collection of ideas! I added some thoughts but I'll keep looking to see how the idea progresses further!

I was really thinking about focusing on schools, but I think with yours, having a complete community park can create so much more of an opportunity for change! It can definitely hit a larger audience too, especially with everything you've updated!

Haha...maybe being on the same page means your idea can really go somewhere! It all sounds so great!

Photo of Jes Simson

Loving the collaborative goodness here. Keep it up! I can't wait to see where it goes.

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi again Ange,

I definitely think our idea can go somewhere and is feasible :). For your park, you may want to include that awesome biking game! I'm not sure it is 100% feasible in my design without a greater indoor area so it might be something you want to incorporate?

For your prototype, maybe you could approach your professors with this idea, the school could set a budget and decide to implement the winning park design and the students could then use the semester or quarter to collaboratively design the park?

Again, thank you so much for all the wonderful feedback and ideas. I look forward to seeing how your idea evolves :)!

Photo of Colin Connors

Hi Ange, I think you have a great idea here. I found one additional reference that might bear looking into: Their company mission sounds similar to what you're trying to accomplish.

Also, I love the idea that the first piece of playground equipment that you install helps to fund the second, the third, etc. I'm wondering if you could take that further to give the idea more of an incremental approach; so it wouldn't require as much up front investment to get started. Instead of having a university design a whole park, could you start with just a single piece of playground equipment? Possibly approach an engineering professor, and have them offer a course where the students collaborate to build a single piece of energy-generating playground equipment in their community. Then, if that is successful the university could build on it the next year, and so on and so on. By gradually proving the idea you could gain acceptance, prove the idea, and generate funding for the next iteration.

I love forward to seeing how this could evolve!

Photo of Natalie Lake

Hi again Ange! Sorry for commenting so many times. I've been leafing through some of the research ideas and I came across these and thought you might find it useful for your playground :)

fFor the parents?

Finally, for the pathways and possibly the courts etc. you might want to look into solar roadways?

Photo of Kristen Jaber

Hi! I really like this safe and eco-friendly playground plan. A quick question: how would you spread the word to the community or ask for help or ideas to build this out? Also, I did a little research and found this company that specializes in eco-friendly playgrounds and thought there was some good examples of restructured play areas or info to include to the community:

Photo of Joanna Spoth

Building off Natalie's link to the Playpumps Research post,, I'm curious if you envision a certain community that would be a particularly good place to start. Would a community like yours have interest in prototyping an idea like this? Playpump started in one village, where there was great success, but experienced significant challenges when they began to scale. I love Natalie's idea of starting with professors or your college community. And based on the similarities between your idea and Natalie's Eco-park idea, it seems you were meant to collaborate! Looking forward to updates on your idea.

Photo of Andrea Zelenak

Wow! This is all really amazing!

I keep envisioning Detroit. Lately there has been a rise in renewable energy in the automobile industry as well as Detroit as a city. Although, it was interesting that a lot of these posts were seen in 3rd world settings. I feel that it would be able to be placed in any city, but I think the communities who need it the most will invest in it the most.

I'm going to start the discussion with some of my professors, renewable energy organizations and even see if I can contact someone from our local science center.

It's cool how a lot of your posts seemed to have the merry-go-round as the main producer of energy, or even pumping water. Starting simple sounds like it would be best! Honestly, just the merry-go-round alone shows promising impact. If a community were to start with that as the basis (or another piece), how Colin stated, the project could gain momentum and allow other experts to add on!

What I noticed Natalie mention in her idea, was the idea of keeping the carbon footprint down, so really using the mechanical/kinetic/soccer-ball theory, of really being low cost and basic technology to produce the best results.

And Kristin, I think that's why Detroit keeps coming back to me. There's this huge movement of resurrecting Detroit that a lot of people want to be part of. I really think by finding and talking to organizations that have the same mission and even the renewable energy department in the city, I could get a group of people together and start networking to people who share this common goal. For some reason it's a revolutionary season in Detroit.

Please let me know if you have other cities or places in mind! Or even think of any contacts or organizations who would be interested. I feel like all of your input is really going to get this thing going! You're awesome!

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