Feature Article - April 2011
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Puddle-Loving Fun

New Developments in Sprayground Design

By Deborah L. Vence

What mitigates this issue is a variable frequency drive, or VFD, that's being used at large aquatic parks, which is designed to tell the pump only to turn on a little bit of water.

"The way it works is that you put a wireless sensor in front of individual features. It tells the controller, 'Hey, I have a kid,' and it opens the valve. That feature in this product … what I say is the main benefit is this allows the controller and individual spray feature to interact and keep water resources in direct correlation to the number of participants."

With this newer system, three or four features are not running at the same time if only one child is playing.

"You're wasting energy. You are wasting water. We need to be sustainable. We need to use the resources in the right way. It's the right thing to do. This is the right way to treat this resource," Williams added.

The second feature uses proportional control valve technology, which involves a stepper motor that opens a simple ball valve at a level dictated by the controller. The controller can be programmed to barely open the valve, thus providing a short, low-velocity water spray that would provide play value for toddler-aged participants.

"We can put a valve on that you can open up and close in proportion—the controller has brains—it can tell this valve, 'hey, open up a little bit.' One element, one feature can now add to play value to many different kids," Williams said.

"What you can do is tell that valve to turn on a little bit. It's programmed in a sequence—what will you do in the sequence for five minutes? I'll have it opened to 3 percent, and then maybe it turns off for 10 minutes. So, this would be [the way] we program them today, when we ship out a sprayground. We make a sequence of events that happen. So, the second feature of this new controller is now we have the brains to have it tell the valves to have it all the way on or off."

The third feature of the new controller is the number of things it can control—increased input and output capacity.

"So, in the old days, our old controller could control 29 features. The PCB was smart enough to handle 29 different things," Williams said. "The new controller can control [3,472] things. We can bring interactivity in a sprayground, which consists of the fun flow valve, turn water on and turn it off."

Williams explained that for a sprayground that has a helicopter and air traffic controller feature, for example, a child at the base of the aircraft with levers and switches activates features that shoot out water.

"So, throughout the whole park, it has an action and a reaction. Across the park, something happens or it shoots out of rocks," he said. "What this is doing for us is allowing us to really bring interactivity to a place where it's never been seen before."