The record Texas heat wave of 2011 sent me reeling back into my childhood filled with memories of escaping the heat with home-made water toys. In an effort to create similar memories for my daughter, friends, and family, I set on an adventure to create a unique water toy for all to enjoy.
Members of Instructables, I present to you; Splash-Pod: The Personal Water Park.
Inspiration, planning, procurement, construction and thoughts.
Or... how a simple idea can lead to hair-loss, sleeplessness and borderline obsession.
My daughter loves the water. No, to be more accurate, she loves getting wet. Splashing, dunking, squirting, spraying and puddle-stomping are all highly regarded activities in her little world. We first discovered this when she was 8 months old and would refuse to get out of the bath until the water was cold; she was too busy playing. My wife and I happened to see a "water-activity table" toy from one of the major toy companies on sale at Target last Summer. It was basically a plastic table with a few spinning wheels and some empty cups. She suggested that it would be a great toy for our mer-baby. Being the tinkerer that I am, I immediately thought - I could build something far better. And so I offered this idea to the better half: Why spend $80 on a plastic table that just sits there when I could build a table that's 50 times more interactive and fun at half the cost. Let this go down as mistake #1.
She agreed and we passed on the toy. The idea was planted in my brain and one year later we have the final result, which I've named Splash-Pod: The Personal Water Park. I hope that you enjoy the Instructable as much as I had writing it (nervous laughter). Well, I hope, at least, that you can make it through this giant write-up.
I have three goals for this instructable. They are:
- Provide a detailed, step-by-step guide on how anyone with very little skill or experience with PVC, Wood-working and electronics could build a similar setup.
- Describe the project timeline and cover the many hurdles that I ran
throughover to make this a reality.
- Lessons learned - the moral of the story is...
Please feel free to ask any questions as I will do my very best to stick around to quickly answer them.
Step 1: Project inspiration.
My muse came from multiple sources, some of them obvious and others fairly obscure. Many of you have seen the commercial water-activity tables for sale at Toys R Us or Target. We've all seen the images of joyful tots cooling off in the spray of a busted fire hydrant, and most of us remember running through sprinklers on a hot summer day. It is now a common sight for public fountains to have jets of water intended for child activity. Even major water parks often have interactive toys such as tipping buckets, fire hoses and rain showers for the smaller kids. Then there is the simple joy of spraying a garden hose all over the yard. All of these are incredibly fun activities that I wanted to incorporate into this toy - somehow.
I just needed a platform; the foundation of the project. This problem ran through my head for months as I tried out various ideas. Common wood construction methods availble to the layman (me) were too ugly and welded steel would be too heavy and also really freaking ugly.
Enter Popular Mechanics June 2011 issue; specifically the article titled "How to Build a Marble Top Coffee Table." The article introduced me to the wonderful world of t-slot extruded aluminum, and was pointed at the massive product inventory at 80/20. I knew right away that I had the solution for my 'water-table' (as it was then known). From this point forward, everything began to fall into place.