When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, sell it and plan a redesign to a tunnel that your children walk through during the school week.
At least that’s what Pinckney School parents are hoping to do.
On Saturday, families will be setting up lemonade stands in the Old West Lawrence neighborhood for the Kansas University football game against Southern Mississippi to raise money for a project to fix up the tunnel that runs underneath Sixth Street to their children’s school.
While parents feel lucky to have their school within walking distance, the underground walkway isn’t exactly a comfortable place.
“That tunnel is very dark. it’s very damp. It’s oftentimes very dirty,” Pinckney parent Sarah Crawford-Parker said. “Many kids in this neighborhood, when they walk to school in the morning, they occasionally have to confront a really unpleasant tunnel.”
Neighborhood residents are used to the hustle and bustle of football Saturdays and are hoping to capitalize on the crowd of people parking and walking to Memorial Stadium.
“Our kids are always asking to do a lemonade stand, and this is a great opportunity,” Crawford-Parker said. “We have a lot of foot traffic.”
But selling their wares, including 25-cent cups of lemonade, cookies, popcorn and other items, to the Jayhawk faithful isn’t the only connection the project has to the university. Tom Huang, a Pinckney parent and an associate professor of industrial design at KU, spearheaded the tunnel revamping as a real world project for his design students.
“The intention was to work with students to develop proposals, and that was as far as I had imagined taking it,” Huang said.
Each student created a design under a few guidelines set by Huang, including some sort of lighting proponent to increase the tunnel’s safety and the best materials to use to graffiti-proof the walls. The class voted on its three favorites and presented the ideas to Pinckney’s Parent Teacher Organization.
“There was great enthusiasm for everything they were trying to do,” Crawford-Parker said.
The group favorite, nicknamed the “Pixel Passageway,” consists of tiles with LED lights and infrared sensors. During the day, the tiles will glow blue and change to orange as someone passes, creating a shadow affect. The nighttime contrast would be the opposite, with orange tiles turning blue as they sense movement.
“They really do need to develop the technology a little bit first to find out how much manufacturing costs would be for something like that,” Huang said, since the idea of LED lights and sensors in tiles isn’t exactly a product students can pick up at any local hardware store. A group of now third-year design students — Tyler Lagaly, Kevin Meyer, Kyle Waggoner, Peter Ciurej and Ryan Jones — has taken the project on as an independent study to see how far the ideas can go.
“The scope of the project is still up in the air,” Huang said.
The school parents are also envisioning the project as something that will be good for their kids and the community as a whole.
“It’s really a design that we think is going to inspire the kids,” Crawford-Parker said. “But I think everybody’s on the same page about wanting it to be something that is sort of a community arts project.”
Huang also has high hopes that the finished product would be admired instead of vandalized.
“Murals seem to be respected,” Huang said. “My hope is that this thing has that kind of presence and affects people in that way, that it’d be something that people take pride in.”
The Pinckney lemonade network will be set up before and after the KU football game, which begins at 11 a.m., between Arkansas and Louisiana Streets from Sixth to Ninth streets. Depending on its success, fans might see the stands for a few more games. “However long the kids are willing to continue selling,” Crawford-Parker said.