Five MSU engineering undergraduates teamed up for a senior project to design retrofits and additions to some playground equipment for Manhattan schools.

The five MSU undergraduates in the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering in MSU's Norm Asbjornson College of Engineering worked with Manhattan's public elementary and middle schools to update their playgrounds with new, custom-built equipment.

"It was really fun and rewarding to see it all being built," said Erik Moody, a capstone team member who worked alongside volunteers in late July to spread wood mulch around the new playground.

The project, which has been in the works for a year, is now in its final stages. The MSU students conducted surveys with schoolchildren, brainstormed ideas, and made detailed drawings for contractors as a part of the project. The capstone team conducted interviews with more than 250 Manhattan students, as well as with staff and parents, to gather ideas.

"Our challenge was to get the kids the most bang for the school's buck," said Moody, who earned his bachelor's in mechanical engineering from MSU in July. The capstone team included Kyle Cannon, Kaleb Crook, Caitlin Oleskowitz and Kaylee Oyler.

According to Manhattan Public Schools Superintendent Brian Ayers, "the project turned out really well. It's something that our schools and our community will enjoy for years to come."

The playground was deteriorating and some equipment had been removed in recent years due to safety concerns, according to Ayers. After an audit of the existing equipment, the MSU students came up with ways to refurbish the merry-go-round and swings to improve safety and accessibility while integrating them into the new playground design.

"A lot of research went into this to make the result fun and engaging and interactive for the kids," Ayers said.

The school helped the MSU team request competitive bids for the manufacturing and installation of the equipment, and Ayers estimates that the MSU students saved the school district more than $100,000 with their project.

Capstone projects, which all seniors in the engineering college complete as a requirement to earning their degrees, are designed to test technical and teamwork skills over the course of an intensive, yearlong project. The projects are sponsored by private industry, community organizations, MSU researchers and other partners.

According to Robb Larson, associate professor of mechanical engineering, there is always a need for new capstone sponsors, and anyone interested in sponsoring a project can contact him.