Architecture students design playground for visually impaired children | News

NC State’s Freedom By Design is a club of architecture students with the purpose of providing service to the community by utilizing the students’ design skills. 


The club — a program under the American Institute of Architecture Students — is currently working on a playground for the Governor Morehead School (GMS), which serves the visually impaired. The club has been working on the playground for a few years, with setbacks due to the pandemic.

Drew Dunphy, a fourth-year studying architecture and Freedom By Design’s co-president, said their organization is unique because the students get to use their skills to create real world solutions to problems.

“A lot of other clubs around the country and internationally are doing small projects like ramps or birdhouses to make the community more accessible,” Dunphy said. “But for us at NC State, we’re doing this huge project, the playground. … It’s a group of design students trying to design and build solutions to community problems.”

According to Brooklyn Scotto, a fourth-year studying architecture and co-president of Freedom By Design, the club is entirely student-run, but has the assistance of a licensed architect, Andrew Osterlund, to sign off on all designs, and faculty advisor, Bryan Bell.

Scotto said the project for the Governor Morehead School has taken longer than normal because of delays related to COVID-19, and as they have collaborated with the GMS, the designs for the playground have gotten more complicated.

“We’re having contact with some of the mobility teachers on the campus telling us some students can see color, different levels of their vision, the age range, and so there’s been a lot more information that we’ve had to take into our designs, which means they’ve become more complicated,” Scotto said.

Scotto said, though the project has become more complicated, they want to do everything they can to provide an accessible playground.

“We want to provide more to the area to help these students with their special abilities and what they need for their site,” Scotto said. “So it went from being a more simple, simplistic playground to something more advanced because we want to make sure we give them as much as we can.”

According to Scotto, the current playground at the school is not very safe or accessible for the students.

“There’s only three pieces of equipment,” Scotto said. “There’s monkey bars, there’s a slide and swing sets, and the swing sets are facing the slides, which are out of code. It floods into the dorms because they don’t have a lot of drainage, and the railings are coming out of the ground and there’s no curbs to tell students with canes where not to walk, what’s not safe. And so upon designing, we’ve tried to address those things.” 

Scotto said the estimated cost of building the playground is $100,000. The club received a grant for $20,000, have conducted fundraisers and partnered with a sorority last year to help fundraise as well.

According to Dunphy, the playground project has been split into two phases of construction.

“As of right now, we have the funds to build phase one,” Dunphy said. “So we’ve kind of gotten up to that point where we’re comfortable giving them phase one as a project. And phase one, once it’s finished, would be a usable playground, but it’s just not to the full extent and sculpt we want, so we do have phase two.”

Scotto said the students of the club plan to work with their partnered construction manager, Logan McClure of McClure & Associates Construction Inc., to build the playground.

“We, the students, plan on building most of it and being on the site and installing it and being as hands on as possible,” Scotto said.

Dunphy said Freedom By Design is continuing to fundraise for the second phase of the playground. The group is fundraising on NextDoor, GoFundMe and the design school’s website.

According to Dunphy, people have contributed to the project in many ways.

“Between each different person, everyone that’s reached out to us, they have a different skill set to help us,” Dunphy said. “Some people are able to donate materials, some people are able to donate their time and networking, some people are able to just donate money.”

Anyone interested in contributing to Freedom By Design’s project in any way can reach out to Schotto and Dunphy at and

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