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The coolest playground on the planet is also educational


SciencePlay interactive high-tech playgrounds from Israel bring science to kids in an outdoor setting with a fundamental focus on fun.

With all due respect to slides and seesaws, Yossi De Levie had a vision for making playgrounds not only more fun and interactive but also more educational.

The product of his vision, ABA SciencePlay, is a first-in-class playground setup fusing outdoor activity with science, and engineering with games, to stimulate and teach children — and their parents — anything from recycling to astronomy to physics.

Take a ride on the Cockpit to learn about helicopter design. Create centrifugal force on a Spinning Universe. Walk a Pythagoras Treadmill to understand the physics of triangles. Position sun-catching mirrors just the right way to set miniature airplanes in motion on an apparatus called Flying High.

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An interactive recycling center senses children approaching and interacts with them using an audio device, prompting them to segregate trash into several compartments and demonstrating how each type of material is readied for recycling. Photo courtesy of ABA Science Play

These and other sensory science activities are built into the equipment, which is manufactured in Ashkelon. Each piece of apparatus features a button you can press to hear narration about what you’re experiencing. And it’s all powered by self-generated solar, wind and kinetic electricity.

ABA Science Play started sales in Israel during 2016. Its unique equipment is installed in several municipal parks in Israel to make science accessible to the public. Some of the products also are found in two Israeli science museums, Technoda in Hadera and MadaTech in Haifa.

Following CE approval, sales are now beginning in Europe, and ABA-USA is being established in the United States with a target of reaching $37 million in sales by 2020. By mid-2017, the company expects to receive certification from the International Playground Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) ahead of US sales.

“We’re now raising $400,000 to facilitate marketing and sales abroad,” says inventor-entrepreneur De Levie, who named the company in memory of his father (“aba” in Hebrew).

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This Mobius bench in the shape of the international recycling logo has only one side and one boundary component. Children slide balls along the bench and observe that a ball starting on the outer side will complete the circle on the inner side. Photo courtesy of ABA Science Play

“Ours are the first park-installed ‘classrooms’ offering memorable hands-on lessons in the sciences,” according to De Levie. “ABA Science Play is about doing it rather than reading about it. It’s about collaborative learning via mental and physical challenges.”

MadaTech Chief Curator Tal Berman tells ISRAEL21c that the Haifa facility, Israel’s national museum of science, technology and space, has a couple of ABA SciencePlay modules among its in-house-designed interactive science exhibits set up in the museum’s outdoor Noble Energy Science Park.

“We’ve had it for about five years and it has been working beyond our expectations as a park, as a science park and as a place that can entertain and educate many visitors even on days we have thousands of guests and the indoor areas are full,” says Berman. “People rest, enjoy and learn about science at the same time.”

Child’s play

ABA Science Play is part of the Microdel private incubator in Tel Aviv, which De Levie founded in 2004 to advance Israeli startups in aquaculture, medical devices, and home, health and security consumer products.

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The Cockpit simulates a helicopter’s flight. The child or adult elevates the apparatus via a handheld pump, then pedals to initiate propeller motion and control speed. The energy generated by the manual work is converted to light up the structure. Photo courtesy of ABA Science Play

Child’s play is nothing new to De Levie, who previously founded a hydro-propulsion company with Israeli industrialist Stef Wertheimer. For many years he founded and ran Games & Sports, an Israeli and European manufacturer of playground equipment that dominated more than half of the Israeli market. He sold the business to Gaon Holdings in 2002.

“Years later, Yossi came up with the idea of changing the concept of playgrounds, because for the past 30 years he’d seen the same stuff,” says Microdel CEO Gabi Wolkinson. “His vision was to bring something educational and interactive.”

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The Twister is a cycling apparatus attached to a 6-foot-tall water-filled cylinder. Cycling stirs the water to create a whirlpool effect. Photo courtesy of ABA Science Play

 Science Play is made mostly of metal materials, designed for durability in any weather conditions and to withstand attempted vandalism. The equipment takes up 600 square meters (6,458 square feet) and costs about $200,000.

The company has five employees, aside from manufacturing, and plans to build a sales force and maintenance staff abroad.

By Abigail Klein Leichman   (Israel21C)

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