• Identify a problem with a building or public space in your community.
• Design an innovative solution.
• Share the solution with others and then refine it.
Our Problem and Solution
Identifying the Problem and Inspiration
Our team researched and discussed several different problems and solutions. First we researched wasted space in public areas. After working together on collaborative documents and making lists of possible solutions, we narrowed it down to two ideas a kinetic wind charging station and the creation of a STEM park. After talking about it more, we voted and decided to combine them and starting researching. There are RC cars parks, RC boat lakes, drone fields, RC airplane fields, and rocket launch areas, but they are all separate parks. Not one of our local parks in Tampa allow all of these STEM toys. So we researched the requirements for each park and and designed possible layout for our innovative STEAM park.
After a few meetings, we discovered that there are several STEM parks throughout the country. So, we decided since it was no longer innovative, we'd drop the STEM park idea and only focus on the kinetic wind charging stations. Inspiration for the kinetic wind charging stations came from a team member seeing George Sherwood's kinetic wind sculpture in person and then we all viewed Anthony Howe's online. Here are examples of their work:
Wind and Light Exhibit
Brainstorming and Researching the Problem
We conducted a survey and a lot more research. Our research showed us that almost all the parks are the same and do not have much for older kids who have outgrown the playground equipment. We also noticed a HUGE lack of art! Then we thought about all the times we had to leave a park because of a dead battery in our RC toys or our parent's cell phone. We also researched and read about low battery anxiety and how it affects people. Our community's public parks have a lot of open space, which also provides the perfect opportunity to install the kinetic wind charging stations. Here are a couple of pictures of local parks with little to no art and open space:
Julian B. Lane
Researching our Innovative Solution
We first did research to see if their were other solutions like ours. From a lot of online research and feedback from a team in Iowa, we discovered while there are some free charging stations in some parks around the United States, none of them are aesthetically pleasing nor bring the benefits of art in public spaces. Below are examples of existing wind turbine solutions.
Small wind turbine
Vertical wind turbine
We contacted several experts including world renowned sculpture, Anthony Howe. He informed us that our idea should work for our intended application but encouraged us to do a lot of research to identify potential issues. So, that's exactly what we did. We read almost 40 different research articles and informational websites.
We learned about the differences between large-scale and small-scale vertical wind turbines. We decided the best option was small-scale for our application because it produces DC current instead of AC. Since battery storage and portable devices that would be using the power both require DC, it makes the most sense. We learned about the numerous benefits of art, including economic development, creating a sense of belonging within one's community, and many other mental health benefits. Taking the feedback we received from our expert and the information we learned during our research, we decided to conduct an experiment to make sure our area had enough wind to move the sculptures and produce electricity.
Our experiment consisted of creating a unit of pinwheels to capture wind from all directions, like kinetic wind sculptures do. We set up two pinwheel units away from each other and timed how long any of the pinwheels turned for one hour. We did this for an hour in the morning and again in the late afternoon. We found the average wind speed to be a little over 7 mph, which is more than enough for small-scale wind turbines because they only need 1.5-3 mph wind (depending on the motor type). Here are some photos from out experiment:
Morning Pinwheel Experiment
Late afternoon Pinwheel Experiment
We also conducted a survey which was complete by almost 150 people. The results showed us that 92% of locals have an interest in having more art in their public parks, 76% would visit parks more often if there were more art, and 75% run out of battery while out in public.
Our First Prototype
We also spoke with an electrician, Calvin McLean, and an electrical engineer, Dr. Elias Stefanakos, who helped us understand the different parts of wind turbines so we could draw our prototype schematic. The information we gathered also helped us create a rough prototype.
Phase 1 Prototype
Refining Our Innovative Solution
After sharing our solution with family, friends, and experts, we received feedback that made us want to do more research. We discovered that small wind turbines have high failure, which makes their cost and maintenance outweigh their benefits. This made us rethink our solution and make changes.
Our new innovative solution is solar art charging stations (SACS). These SACS use solar panels to charge a deep-cycle 12v battery, which is stored in a pedestal base. In order to make sure our new solution isn't already existing we conducted more research. Below are existing solar charging stations.
Solar charging picnic table
Solar charging station
Our research shows there are no other solar charging stations which include visceral art. While we are using existing technology and art, we have combined them in a new innovative way which, if implemented, will have a positive impact in our local parks or other public community spaces. Below is a schematic of our prototype and final, working prototype, and photos of us building it.
Impact to Our Community
These SACS provide kinetic art and free, clean energy for public enjoyment and use.
We’ve discovered that adding public art to parks has many benefits. Such as, economic growth and sustainability through increased tourism, a sense of placement within a community, and positive mental health benefits. And access to free power to charge devices means people will stay and use the public space longer! Which means more play time at parks for all kids because our parents phones can stay charged.
Sharing our Innovative Solution
We've shared our refine innovation solution with our experts and professionals, 16 online groups, and in-person with over 100 park-goers at Water Works park in Tampa, FL.
Experts and Professionals
• Anthony Howe, Kinetic Artist (Email)
• George Sherwood, Kinetic Artist (Email)
• Calvin McLean, Electrician (Personal Communication)
• Dr. Elias Stefanakos, Electrical Engineer and Director of CERC at USF, (Personal Communication)
• Eileen Blake, Arts Council of Tampa-Hillsborough (Email)
• City of Tampa Art & Cultural Affairs Division (Email)
• Parks and Recreation of Tampa (Email)
• Friends of Recreation (Email)
• Mark White, Kinetic Artist (Email)
• Robert, Batteries Plus Bulbs (Personal Communication)
• Online Survey 1 (145 people)
• Survey 2 (80 online, over 109 in-person)
• 16 groups and an FLL peer review group on Facebook
• Our team website