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A playground engineer smiling, standing in front of a yellow wall.

Q&A: Stan Jones

Stan Jones has been working with Adventure Playground Engineers (APES) since he was at school, and is now a project manager leading his own design and engineering projects.

Why did you first become interested in science/engineering?

I can’t remember when I first became interested in engineering. I’ve always loved making stuff and being practically minded. As a child my house was always being renovated so I was accustomed to construction processes such as timber framing, plastering, electrical work, and plumbing. For my 14th birthday I gave my parents a list of timber to get for me so that I could build my own workshop in the garden, complete with work benches and some tools I’d saved up to buy. I mainly started with woodworking but over time my skills broadened, and I got into fixing electrical items such as electric scooters and I designed and built a disc sander. When I was 15, I started working at my local adventure playground doing all the structural repairs and general maintenance work. I couldn’t believe you could get paid for fixing stuff!

How did you get to where you are now?

I got to where I am now through that very playground I started working at – St Pauls Adventure Playground. The playground had been burnt down and John O’Driscoll, the Founder and Director of APES, came to rebuild it (and make it better!). He spotted me doing some repairs and came to offer me a job alongside going to school. Working with APES, we dismantled the burnt structure and built in its place a huge treehouse that was eight metres from the ground with climbing nets and a climbing wall entrance. Since then, I’ve worked with them every minute I could, and was offered a place to leave school to live and work in London for APES, engineering playgrounds!

A playground engineer in a high vis jacket, standing on top of a wooden playground installation being built.

Stan working on a playground installation

What has been your biggest achievement to date?

My biggest achievement would probably be being promoted to project manager at APES after two years and taking on my own design and engineering projects with a small team of engineers. I am proud to have been given that role and thankful to APES for providing it.

What is your favourite thing about being an engineer?

My favourite thing about being an engineer is the problem-solving. I’ve always been in love with maths and so quick thinking and effective teamwork make me happy at work.

What does a typical day involve for you?

I get up at about 6.00am, head to work for 8.00am, start at the workshop, and crack on with whatever project we have on at the time. Currently, we are fabricating 150 Gabion planters [sturdy metal basket filled with rocks] to make Parklets, miniature parks that provide spaces for people to interact, to rest, for children to play, for greenery, bike parking, and other community uses, in north west London. My role within the company is to designate jobs, ensure we have the required materials, employ quality control measures and, most importantly, keep everyone happy at work. APES’ approach is to enhance the local environment by working with natural features and encompassing them in our designs. We encourage new planting, work to sustain local wildlife and either build around or incorporate existing trees into play structures without causing them harm. We also recycle and reuse all sorts of materials to give them new life in the playgrounds – including pianos! We also make sure to involve children and the local community in all our projects, so that they can have real ownership of the sites. I am also always happy to jump in and help out to get things done on time and efficiently!

Quick-fire facts




GCSEs, AS maths, Engineering BTEC

Biggest engineering inspiration:

Elon Musk

Most-used technology:


Three words that describe you:

laid back, organised, and motivated

What would be your advice to young people looking to pursue a career in engineering?

Find an apprenticeship or first job where you can learn a lot from the people around you. Decide what you love about engineering and search to find that in a company.

What’s next for you?

My next project is to take over APES and become managing director! Just kidding! I just took my home-made sound system to Shambala festival to create a youth stage. I’m currently working on maintaining the sound system and adding parts to it. It’s called ‘Hertz So Good’ and I designed and built it in my home workshop at the start of lockdown. It runs at about 11 kilowatts and is about 2 metres by 2.5 metres at face dimensions. Then we’ve got a new playground to build in St John’s Wood, London. It requires us to go down as a team and dismantle the existing rotten structures and put in its place brand new, thrilling ones.

A soundsystem made from wood, painted red and green with "Hertz So Good" on the side.

The ‘Hertz So Good’ soundsystem that Stan built for Shambala festival


This article originally appeared in the print edition of Ingenia 92 (September 2022).

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