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PROTOTYPE --- PURPOSE: To design a sensory-stimulating outdoor play activity center for children with limited physical and cognitive abilities. The prototype frame structure consists of five activity stations and nine different activities. The frame structure is weatherproof, height-adjustable, and can be easily dismantled for storage. Activities are designed to stimulate the visual, auditory, and tactile senses. Components are interchangeable and removable for cleaning or storage. The frame is constructed from 1.25-inch red furniture-grade PVC. To provide stability, but also allow the device to be removed if necessary, the 5- inch-long vertical posts of the frame are inserted into 12-inch-long stainless steel sleeves,each of which is 2 inches in diameter, which are submerged into holes in the ground (made with a garden auger and drill). The six vertical pipes are connected via L- or T-joints to similar PVC beams, 32.5 inches long, parallel to the ground. The resulting height of the PVC beams is 4 inches. Five powder-coated green clothesline hooks are evenly spaced on the vertical posts, 36 to 44 inches above the ground. Each hook extends 6 inches in front of the vertical posts, so that wheelchairs can remain on the flat concrete patio, away from the adjacent grass slope. For each activity station, a 36-inch-long, half-inch PVC pipe is supported at each end by the clothesline hooks. Two of the nine stations are directly connected to these horizontal activity bars via custom attachments with three components. A nylon strap loops around the PVC bar and extends five inches to a plastic buckle. This buckle allows length adjustment of the nylon strap. The other end of the nylon strap loops through the terminal link of an 8-inch segment of garden-grade plastic chain. The other terminal link of this chain attaches to a connecting device, either a metal key ring or a plastic latch, which attaches to the activity. A variety of activities were designed to meet the needs of the client. The designs were inspired by toys currently on the market. All the activities are visually stimulating as they are brightly colored. Three of the activities stimulate the tactile sense. Activity A consists of strings of plastic beads hung vertically from a dowel rod. Activity B is a series of three rubber balls of varying textures. Activity C uses a commercially- available children’s toy that vibrates and talks when activated. This toy was switch adapted with a standard 1/8 inch phone jack so that vibration and sound occur only upon pressing the switch. Five other activities also reinforce the learning of cause and effect. Activity D is a commercially available bubble maker that was switch adapted to produce bubbles when the switch is pressed. Activity E consists of painted wooden balls within a clear plastic container. The container is attached directly to the horizontal activity bar and has three large knobs around the perimeter. When the user pushes the knobs, the container rotates and balls roll around within the container. Activities F through I also reinforce the concept of cause and effect and stimulate the auditory sense. Activity F is a “rain-stick.” A clear plastic tube containing beads and obstructions to the beads is attached directly to the horizontal activity bar. When the user rotates the tube about the horizontal bar, beads fall from one end to the other, creating a sound similar to rain. Activity G consists of seven hand bells, each producing a different note when hit. Activity H is constructed from four plastic Christmas ornaments, each containing small beads that rattle when the ornaments are swung. Activity I consists of a large colorful wooden butterfly attached to a commercially available wind chime. TITLE: Outdoor Play Activity Center. JOURNAL: NSF 2006 Engineering Senior Design Projects to Aid Persons with Disabilities. REF: Chapter 7: pp. 60-61. PAGES: 3 with cover. 2006.
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