The Lauren Savoy Olinde Foundation (LSO) worked with a team of LSU College of Agriculture and Engineering Students on the design and installation of a cost-efficient sunshade design for school playgrounds. The first cost-efficient LSU engineered sunshade was installed on the Brusly Elementary School playground in April.
The LSO Foundation’s mission is to bring awareness to skin cancer and sun safety. One blistering sunburn in childhood can double a child’s chances of developing melanoma skin cancer later in life. With that fact, the Sunshade Project was created by the LSO Foundation to help shade playgrounds across the community and keep kids safe while at play. The first sunshade installed by the LSO Foundation cost more than $40,000.
The Foundation came to the conclusion that they would not be able to shade many playgrounds with costs averaging $20,000 to $90,000 per project and needed to find a different approach. Dr. Mary Beth Lima, professor in the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at the LSU College of Engineering who has a service learning class that designs and implements new playground builds was approached with the problem by the LSO Foundation. As an advisor for a team of student engineers taking a Biologicial Engineering class, Lima discussed the sunshade problem of high costs with her students. The student team took on the issue as their class project to seek to design and implement a cost-effective sunshade structure for less than $10,000. The LSU students, Ethan Byrne, Noelle Curole, Daniel James Davison, Ryan Hoff, Reed Holdridge and Tommy Nguyen, under the advisement of Lima, executive director of the LSO Foundation, Sarah Gray, and engineersMary Schambeau Johnson and Brooke Morris went to work.
It was found that much of the price is due to large companies building in liability and profits in their sunshade costs. These costs could be significantly cut if the sunshade was constructed by the buyer/school purchasing all materials individually and hiring a certified playground installer and contractor, rather than a one-stop sunshade manufacturer and installer company. Regarding design, the student team designed a three-pole shade sail design and custom designed a flange attachment that a steel fabricator could easily weld to the top of the steel pipes for attaching the shade sail. The team then sourced many of the materials locally. By sourcing locally, the local companies had an investment in their community and many provided their services and materials in-kind. Another savings was found in using volunteer labor that the students provided. Before deduction of donated services, the sunshade came under $14,000, after reflecting the in-kind donations, the sunshade costed under $10,000.
“Over 700 children use the Brusly Elementary School playground each day. These kids will now have a sun safe play environment. With costs as low as $10,000, this sunshade at Brusly Elementary School is just the first of many sunshades that we will be able to provide,” Director Gray said.
The hope of the LSO Foundation is to make the LSU designed sunshade into a kit that schools can purchase through the Foundation and contacts for labor and other services can be found within each school’s community. The current LSU engineered sunshade design will need further design and research by future engineering student teams. What the current team has provided will be reviewed and built upon to hopefully find even more cost savings.
Brusly Elementary School PTO, LSO Foundation, and a special grant from LSU College of Agriculture and Engineering funded the sunshade. A special thank you to the following partners: Angelle Concrete, Majestic Playground Services, Zimmer Metal Crafts, LSU students Ethan Byrne, Noelle Curole, Daniel James Davison, Ryan Hoff, Reed Holdridge, and Tommy Nguyen, Dr. Mary Beth Lima, Professional Engineers Mary Schambeau Johnson PE, and Brooke Morris, West Baton Rouge School Board, Brusly Elementary School, Brusly Elementary School PTO.
Schools in need of shade on their play area can contact firstname.lastname@example.org with their inquiry on how to apply.