Cardboard Playhouse | Design Squad

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Hey, I’m Nate from Design Squad. This is my son Calvin. Calvin’s 16 months old, and he loves to play and climb on things. I think he would really enjoy having a play structure right here in our backyard. What I think would be great is to use some recycled materials to build him a play structure out of cardboard, and then when he grows out of it, I’ll just throw the whole thing in the recycling bin. – Go! – I want to start getting some of my ideas out of my head and onto paper, where I can look at them and think about them. Rather than prototype the whole system, test it out, and build the whole thing again, instead, I’m going to use the design process to design, build, and test parts of the whole thing as I go. First, I designed, built, and tested the beams that’ll support the slide. This is just a single sheet of cardboard. We know that’s not going to hold up Calvin. I’m going to try folding the sheet into a triangle-shaped beam. Super easy to make with corrugated cardboard, and so much stronger than the sheet by itself.

Let’s see about this 50-pound weight. Oh, yeah. Look at how strong that beam is! This thing will hold up Calvin no problem. Next, I built the slide. He’s testing it out already. I think he likes it. So Calvin just climbed onto design version one of the slide, so it was flat, and then when Calvin climbed into it, it got this nice curved shape to it. I think it could actually help him stay safely contained a lot better than a flat platform, like I was first thinking. – Wow! – Thanks, buddy. That’s an even better design than I thought of. Now, we still have a really important test to do. The slide has to be strong enough to support Calvin’s weight when he’s right in the middle. That means it’s got to be strong enough to be a bridge. It’s supporting the 50 pounds! I think we’re gonna be good. Safe! Next, I designed, built, and tested the columns.

Now, I have four columns. If this thing gets squished like this, it’ll compromise the integrity of the entire thing. So what I’m gonna do is this: cut some circles of cardboard. I’m gonna cut some slits in those pancake shapes and smash the pancakes in. The column is really strong this way, but not this way. This pancake is pretty strong this way in the direction that the column is not. If I put the two together, I’ll get a very strong column that’s good in two directions. Just get a little tape to hold that in place. I mean, it definitely helps, but it’s actually not as strong as I wanted. But I do have another idea based off of this idea. That’s how these things go sometimes. You try something out, works okay, not quite how you wanted, got a new idea that might work a bit better. Instead of smashing the disc onto the inside of the column, I’m folding the tabs onto the outside. I think this will support the slide a little bit better, and it’s faster to build, and it just looks a lot cleaner.

Of course, if you’re building anything out of cardboard, you’re gonna use duct tape. Hey, can you hand me some duct tape? But we’re building a fun, cool kids’ play structure. I’m gonna use some of this. Finally, tape that matches how fun the project is. I spent a lot of time getting these columns nice and strong. 50 pounds. I think these are gonna be good. But I don’t just need strength for this thing to work. I need strength and stability. I have to hold them steady in relation to one another to help keep the entire structure from falling over with Calvin on top of it. This extra structure I’m adding at the bottom is gonna help with our stability.

I’ve got the column supported really well. Now, up at the top is a good little platform that’s helping tie the whole thing together so I have both strength to hold up Calvin and stability so the strong structure won’t just tip over with him on top. You think you can fit through this? Calvin, your entry portal is ready. I’ve observed him doing a lot of climbing recently– climbing onto chairs, trying to climb onto the kitchen table– so I figured an approach like this with just stacking some boxes together would be a pretty safe bet for him to be able to get in.

He seems to really enjoy the challenge of getting up onto something tall. And test number one of climbing structure: successful! You like it? Good climbing. It’s a slide. You want to go down the slide? Bye-bye! (laughs) Hey, buddy, was that fun? You wanna go again? So the first test of the slide seems like a huge success. In fact, at the same time, I got to test, “Is the box fun to play in?” The answer was yes to both. Calvin desperately wanted to get in the box. Bye-bye! Not every project gets this successful this early, but it’s always fun when they do. Calvin’s just figured out the idea of repurposing..

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