Elementary school children voted on designs for a new playground structure this week in a novel process involving first-year civil engineering students at the University of Waterloo.
Ten teams of Waterloo Engineering students pitched their ideas for the project during an assembly at Keatsway Public School in Waterloo, with themes ranging from space to under the sea.
Pupils at the JK-6 school then cast ballots for the top three designs, which will be showcased and voted on by the wider school community at a fun fair in June to pick the ultimate winner.
The project was organized by Rania Al-Hammoud, a civil and environmental engineering lecturer at Waterloo, to promote community involvement and teach lessons including the importance of getting input and feedback from customers.
Engineering students in a mechanics class of 140 met twice with children at the school as they refined their designs, which were whittled down from an initial 35 to 10 for the pitch event this week.
“My students loved it,” Al-Hammoud said of the process, which began in January. “They told me they got ideas from the school kids that they would never have thought of in a million years.”
The new play structure, the focus of a fundraising campaign at the school, is tentatively scheduled to be built next year in an area of 360 square metres and on a budget of up to $75,000.
The designs, which use components from Canadian playground companies, are worth 15 per cent of students’ final marks in the class. Members of the top three teams earned three-per-cent bonuses.
“It’s not homework, it’s real work,” Al-Hammoud said. “That is exciting for the students.”
The winning teams were The Colourful Playground (Stephen Atkinson, Jessica Elias, Navneet Grewal and Kyle Lane), Welcome to the Jungle (Matthew Bowman, Omar Jessani, Brendan Speiser and Adam Thomson) and The Jungle Jim (Samuel King, Jesse Osmond, Wyatt Poulton and Kevin Shea).