For my honors research in Integrated Product Design at the University of Technology Sydney, I designed an interactive log splitting device intended for children to use in daycare centers. The machine explores the child developmental theory of risky play through harnessing mechanical principles, cause and effect and mimicry.
'Stop That!' 'Watch out!' 'Be Careful!'
These phrases are pervasive among modern parents. Increasingly, however, research shows children benefit from risky play, and over-protection can be counterproductive. Risky play is the combination of fear and exhilaration. It permits children to test their boundaries and flirt with uncertainty. Moreover, it offers valuable lessons for life, and for this reason fire pits and other higher risk experiences are being trialled in early child-hood centers around Australia. Chop is an interactive log splitting device, designed for children, allowing them to contribute to the first step in the fire-making process.
Safety is paramount. The notion of danger is key.
Children work together to rotate a spring loaded axe into a log. The spring compresses, building anticipation and offering a visualization of the force involved. Eventually, the pressure reaches a critical point and as the log begins to split, the spring unloads, shooting into the log, providing an exhilarating reward for the children's hard work.
Designer: Monte Sheppard
I have just completed the Honors course in Integrated Product Design at the University of Technology, Sydney. The course is a self-directed research project that involves writing a thesis and producing a finished design.
I have spent the year researching and designing an interactive log splitting device so that the children at daycares that have fireplaces or pits may participate in the process that comes before lighting one—splitting logs. I began working closely with a progressive early learning centre during the middle of this year.
It appears society is becoming overly cautious in the way that we bring up our children. It seems to be assumed that by removing risk, children will be able to play in a safer environment. However, this approach fails to acknowledge risk taking as a positive feature of children's play and in their learning process. By removing risk, we are depriving children of the chance to learn essential skills that are part of growing up. Involvement in risky play affords children the opportunity to practice risk mitigation, and to learn how to manage difficult situations. Risky play gives children the opportunity to extend their limits of comfort and learn valuable life skills. It has also been shown to not only be fun, but essential for the development of their motor skills, balance, coordination and body awareness.
Fire and Daycare
In 2017, the University of Newcastle began a study with some early learning centers in Australia that incorporated the principles of Risky Play into their curriculum. An element of this involved the centers having fires at lunchtimethat the children could interact with. And so, I wanted to explore how children might be able to participate in the process that comes before lighting a fire—splitting wood.
To explore this concept, I have created an interactive, spring loaded log splitting machine designed for children. Children work together to rotate a ring, which acts as a lever, to slowly drive down a spring loaded axe into a log. As the axe comes into contact with the log, the spring begins to compress, helping the children visualize the force involved and building up anticipation. Eventually the log reaches a critical point, and as it starts to split, the spring and the axe unload, shooting the axe into the log, helping it to split. It offers an exciting reward for the children's work.
The final prototype was constructed in the faculty of engineering workshop (FEIT).