Entrepreneurs add color, music to the playground
September 16, 2003
A new company that will produce an innovative line of playground equipment has been established by two Roaring Fork Valley residents.
The WonderWorx company, located on Mill Street in Aspen, hopes their designs will bring musical exploration and visual art to the playground.
“We hope our company will provide a radical departure in playground equipment, which will turn the kinetic energy of children into music and bring an exciting, aesthetic dimension to the playground,” officials from the company said.
The Rainstick See Saw is the first conceptual design to be realized. Inspired by the aboriginal Rainstick instrument, the model is an attempt to redesign the See Saw as a kinetic, musical structure.
Crafted from bright, polychrome steel, a clear, Lexan tube balanced on a fulcrum holds an artful arrangement of chimes and balls, so that the seesaw action of the two players initiates a musical display. The See Saw can be seen outside the WonderWorx offices on South Mill Street.
A Song-Swing, also in production, is a swing which uses the back-and-forth movement of the child to compress air, which is then expelled through an organ. The child can control the pitch through wind holes on the handle of the swing, much like a wind instrument – thereby translating his kinetic motion into music making.
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The WonderWorx company is the brainchild of Grant Ballin and Robert Tobias, two longtime valley residents. Ballin, a local artist, inventor and musician, came up with the idea for the playground equipment a few years ago.
He then found the collaboration of Tobias, an entrepreneur and arts and crafts enthusiast, who provides the bulk of the financial backing for the project.
“It was like a light bulb going off in my head,” Ballin says. “Most playground equipment is designed for 5- to 12-year-olds. If I could design equipment that would expand the age groups, while simultaneously challenging and entertaining children, I knew I had come up with a fresh and innovative product.”
Right now, WonderWorx is producing the equipment as pieces of art for private sale. With patents pending in 120 countries, and more pieces in various stages of development, Tobias and Ballin are unsure of the ultimate direction of the company. As of now, however, there are no plans to include any of the equipment in Pitkin County parks.