11/4/11 – assembling ball stomps at Smith

This was our first real work to put something together that kids will use for play. The ball stomps are a ridiculously simple design; one long board, (we used a good quality 1/2″ baltic birch plywood, 8″ X 28″)  and a rounded block mounted on the underside (pre-made with an 8″ section from a stair rail)  to make a pivot point. Place a ball on the low end of the lever, step on the lever and the ball flies up to be caught. A simple idea, but  an activity that teaches a number of motor skills kids need while they have fun. You need balance skills to hold one leg on the ground and step forward to stomp, you need visual tracking skills to follow the ball as it comes up toward you, and you need to figure the right amount of force to get the ball to come up so you can catch it… Yet even with something so simple, there are design choices that will make a difference in how the toy is used and whether it can stand up to the demands of young kids.

We got a tour of the wood shop at Smith, the Center for Design and Fabrication, from Eric Jensen, the manager. After a quick safety lecture, we got started sanding and assembling the ball stomps.   It was a pleasure to watch everyone sand and use a drill and  put in a few brass wood screws, and soon there will be 10 ball stomps for kids to use!!  Each student gets to custom paint 2 ball stomps, and figure out a way to hold the ball on the angled board.  This is a small but crucial detail,  coming up with an idea that is durable, low cost and versatile (i.e. can hold everything from a tennis ball to a beach ball in size).

The other design project coming up will be to design a way to connect several ball stomps to turn it into a group activity.

We will meet back at the Children’s Museum in Holyoke next week to show off our custom designs!


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