Swingsets, slides, jungle gyms — when it comes to playgrounds, you’re going to have to try a little harder to get the attention of today’s digital native kids.

OK, all kids still love a good slide. But there are innovations happening in the playground space, and the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh’s MuseumLab will be showing some of them off at SouthSide Works starting at 2 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 4. It’s called the techPLAYground Pop-up, and it’s located indoors at 2738 Sidney Street (in the former Nine West shop near the pet store). The playground was designed with the help of students from Carnegie Mellon’s Entertainment Technology Center.

“We are always excited to take play experiences beyond the walls of the Museum — and techPLAYground represents the first interactive exhibit pop-up to come out of MuseumLab,“ says Anne Fullenkamp, senior director of creative experiences at the Children’s Museum.

The playground includes a high-tech take on Musical Chairs, which can be played like instruments by sitting on them. Musicians will be able to quickly figure out how to play a song — others will have fun trying. There’s also the Holding Hands feature, where a message from Mister Rogers displays when two or more people complete an electrical circuit by holding hands.

Artists Owen Lowery and Jordan Graves contributed unique, interactive play elements to the project.

“Community Garden” at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
“Community Garden” at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

Graves’s “Community Garden” asks visitors to digitally draw flowers on their own smart devices and display them in a communal field, filled with others’ blooms. The Community Garden can be accessed from anywhere in the world so the possibilities are endless.

In Lowery’s “The Cryptid Simulator,” participants step in front of a camera and appear on a screen as paper cutouts of a cryptid, or mythical creature (Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, the Mothman, etc.). The scene depicts where the cryptid’s legend first spawned and fun facts about them. Lowery’s Change the Code feature is a simple intro to computer coding that alters chunks of code to change scenes, colors and patterns.

“Change the Code” by Owen Lowery. Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.
“Change the Code” by Owen Lowery. Photo courtesy of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh.

The playground is free and open to the public from 2 to 8 p.m. daily through the end of October.

“Uniquely positioned just across the river from our department, the pop-up location at SouthSide Works will allow for new capacity for play testing, development and deployment of more free-to-play interactive experiences,” says John Balash, director of educational engagement for CMU’s Entertainment Technology Center.

Adults can be forgiven if they want to get in on the fun, too.

Michael Machosky

Michael Machosky is a writer and journalist with 18 years of experience writing about everything from development news, food and film to art, travel, books and music. He lives in Greenfield with his wife,...