It’s probably every parents dream to transform their kid’s natural rambunctious energy into something productive – maybe enthusiastically doing their chores – but architectural firm Ecosistema Urbano has sought to create a more enjoyable way for kids to understand the benefits of their effort. The architects succeeded through their Energy Carousel design: a playground toy composed of many ropes and swings that kids can play on while generating electricity as a byproduct.
As children play and spin around the carousel, they transform their mechanical energy into electricity through a generator. As they swing and sway, their momentum turn the rotating wheels overhead. This spins a hidden shaft which rotates coils of wire between the poles of a strong magnet to induce current (electricity) in the coils. The energy is then stored in a battery underground that later powers LED lights in the canopy, illuminating the playground at night. The more power that is generated, the brighter and more colorful the lights become.
Located in the city of Dordrecht in the Netherlands, the Energy Carousel is even further unique in its overall structure. Playground equipment is often made of heavy steel designed to withstand perpetual trampling, but this piece is mostly composed of soft ropes and gentle textiles. Through the geometry of tensegrity, the structure easily stabilizes through tension and compression.
Besides creating an efficient and practical toy, the designers’ main goal was to educate through play. The mention of physics usually frightens children and adults alike, but demonstrating how science works to create something we all use – energy – provides a more entertaining way to learn about the hidden power inside of us. The designers “believe that teaching children about alternative methods for generating electrical power with their own physical experiences sends a subtle message about the potential for a creative and more sustainable approach to urbanism.”