Akron Children’s Hospital heads back to the future with help from Summit Construction

Oct 31, 2016

The new 30-foot wall display across from Rubber City Coffee at Akron Children’s Hospital beckons adults to come and play.

Five side-by-side touch screens glow blue with history. Each is filled with color-coded categories like Trivial Pursuit. And users who linger can drill down into the digital timeline to learn fun facts similar to the style of “Pop-Up Video” on VH-1.

A touch of a screen reveals, for instance, that 1978 was a banner year: The world’s first successful “test-tube” baby was born in Great Britain, a Georgia artist created soft-sculpted dolls that became known as Cabbage Patch Kids, and Akron Children’s Hospital built a 59-bed neonatal intensive care unit capable of caring for the smallest and sickest of newborns.

William Considine, the hospital’s president and chief executive since 1979, revealed the high-tech timeline to staff this week, saying “status quo is our worst enemy.”

The sleek touch-screen technology replaces a series of relics behind glass that had served as the hospital’s timeline, including a small Goodyear blimp, a Christmas tree representing the hospital’s annual Holiday Tree Festival and a Pinkie the Puppet, a small toy given to patients between 1956 and 2015. Children now receive a stuffed dog called Barkers.

The traditional timeline was popular with visitors, staff said, but dust accumulated on objects and there wasn’t space to provide much information.

The digital timeline not only lets people peer into hospital history, but it also shows them how hospital milestones fit into a larger context, juxtaposing those dates against important milestones for the city of Akron’s history, medical breakthroughs and child-friendly pop culture happenings.

Andrea Rogers and the hospital’s public relations staff began working with hospital employees and the Akron Children’s Women’s Board on the project about two years ago as they were prepared for hospital’s 125th anniversary in 2015.

The digital timeline was manufactured by Zenith Systems of Cleveland and designed to stand up to the pushes and presses of the thousands of hands that pass by the wall space every year.

With a touch of the screen, visitors can explore history by decade, starting in 1890. The green, blue, yellow and pink windows now contain only information and photos. But the timeline will evolve with technology, including videos and other interactive experiences.

Considine said visitors who use the timeline will see a theme emerge that’s rooted in the hospital’s beginning: Service above self.

“And,” Considine added, “that we treat every child as our own.”


By Amanda Garrett
Beacon Journal staff writer