Data: What Are we doing?
We are conducting a research project at Waterloo Playground in the Norris Square neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA, mapping movement patterns and physical activity within the park using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) smart tags in conjunction with onsite antennas. The data from the technology will result in heat maps of use, paths of travel, and energy expenditure, allowing us to better understand how the design of the built environment impacts health of local residents.
Design: Why this project?
The city of Philadelphia is about to embark on an unprecedented $500 million investment in public parks, libraries, recreation centers, and playgrounds known as Rebuild. While Waterloo is not one of the Rebuild playgrounds, its renovation will be completed early in the Rebuild process. By studying the before and after effects of the renovation at Waterloo, we hope to facilitate data informed design for future parks and playgrounds in the Rebuild pipeline.
Our goal is to continue this research at other sites, in Philadelphia and beyond, creating an interactive online dashboard and data set that could be utilized by designers, funders, policy makers and government, in the pursuit of healthier built environments for all.
Health: The Health Initiative
Within Philadelphia, statistics show that life expectancy is determined by one's zip code: 68 years in the area surrounding Waterloo Playground versus 88 years in Center City. Part of this drastic difference in life spans is due to the high levels of obesity in children and adults because of lack of exercise within different areas of the city.
One way we can tackle this issue is to promote parks and exercise through play. Play has decreased in the past years due to the lack of access to safe and appealing places to be outdoors. Half of the children in the US do not have a park, community center or sidewalk in their neighborhood--and this should change.
If we are able to discover what it is about parks that promotes movement and play, we will have the ability to change the health of the residents of Philadelphia for the better.
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