Student teams from across Norman, OK converged at the OU Innovation Hub on the campus of the University of Oklahoma to design playground equipment of their dreams – dubbed the “Playmaker Challenge.” 

Eight different teams of 5th grade students representing Norman Public Schools were given the opportunity to work with specialized tools, equipment and materials prepared by Innovation Hub staff to produce a physical model and, if possible, a functional prototype of their solution to the challenge. 

Each team was supported by a Devon employee, an Engage Learning coach and an Innovation Hub staff person to foster internal collaboration between the teams. For some students, it was their first exposure to 3D printers, laser cutters and woodworking equipment that were made available to build the prototype playground equipment.

After spending the morning session creating their equipment, each team gave a three-minute presentation on their “Playmaker Challenge” prototype. Each piece of playground equipment had to incorporate five rings, audible recognition and of course, be a ton of fun for kids to enjoy.

“What I love about this event is they weren’t really limited,” said Christina Rehkop, Devon manager of community relations. “We encouraged the students to find a way to make their vision come to fruition.” 

Cleveland Elementary’s “Human Hamster Wheel” design won first place and a $1,000 check for the school. The design includes three wheels: one stationary with a rock-climbing wall, one that rotates in one direction for children to run on and another stationary wheel with climbing bars.

The competition emphasized teamwork and creative problem solving while giving students a hands-on learning opportunity.

"Where can you come and use a laser cutter and create these different creations?" said Kristi Gray, director of advanced placement and gifted and talented programs for Norman Public Schools. "We have a lot of STEM curriculum already built into our school day, but really what we wanted was something that was more hands-on and really lent itself to creativity."

"Devon wants to hire the best and the brightest, and we want to hire innovative people. That starts with encouraging today’s students and tomorrow’s leaders, to think creatively," Rehkop said. "Maybe they'll go into oil and gas, or they'll be the next doctors or the next bridge builders. And we just want to provide access and experiences to foster that learning."

The competition was tailored to students with an interest in further developing their STEM skills and could feature more school districts throughout Devon operating areas judging by the interest from educators across the state.

Published: March 2018