US20100144236A1 - Activity System and Method of Using the Same - Google Patents

Activity System and Method of Using the Same Download PDF

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Publication number
US20100144236A1
US20100144236A1 US12/331,427 US33142708A US2010144236A1 US 20100144236 A1 US20100144236 A1 US 20100144236A1 US 33142708 A US33142708 A US 33142708A US 2010144236 A1 US2010144236 A1 US 2010144236A1
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United States
Prior art keywords
activity
supply unit
unit
valve body
valve
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Abandoned
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US12/331,427
Inventor
Ronald Asbach
Mark Wojtkiewicz
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Mattel Inc
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Mattel Inc
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Priority to US12/331,427 priority Critical patent/US20100144236A1/en
Assigned to MATTEL, INC. reassignment MATTEL, INC. ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST (SEE DOCUMENT FOR DETAILS). Assignors: ASBACH, RONALD, WOJTKIEWICZ, MARK
Publication of US20100144236A1 publication Critical patent/US20100144236A1/en
Application status is Abandoned legal-status Critical

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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS, BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H29/00Drive mechanisms for toys in general
    • A63H29/10Driving mechanisms actuated by flowing media
    • A63H29/14Driving mechanisms actuated by flowing media by a water stream
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63GMERRY-GO-ROUNDS; SWINGS; ROCKING-HORSES; CHUTES; SWITCHBACKS; SIMILAR DEVICES FOR PUBLIC AMUSEMENT
    • A63G31/00Amusement arrangements
    • A63G31/007Amusement arrangements involving water
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63HTOYS, e.g. TOPS, DOLLS, HOOPS, BUILDING BLOCKS
    • A63H23/00Toy boats; Floating toys; Other aquatic toy devices
    • A63H23/10Other water toys, floating toys, or like buoyant toys

Abstract

The present invention relates to an activity system that can be used with a supply of fluid, such as water. In particular, the present invention relates to an activity system that includes a supply unit or station and an activity unit that can be used with the supply unit. The supply unit is configured to supply a fluid to the activity unit station when a user engages the activity unit with the supply unit.

Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to an activity system that can be used with a supply of fluid, such as water. In particular, the present invention relates to an activity system that includes a supply unit or station and an activity unit that can be used with the supply unit. The supply unit is configured to supply a fluid to the activity unit when a user engages the activity unit with the supply unit.
  • BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
  • Children often enjoy playing with a fluid, such as water. Most children do not share their parents' concerns over wasting water or controlling the use of water. Parents try to balance these concerns with their desire to allow children to play as independently as possible. On a warm or hot day, water games can provide a fun and soothing outdoor activity. Typically, water games often include or utilize water toys, such as water fillable toys (e.g., buckets, squirt guns, etc.) or water dispensing toys (e.g., water slides, sprinklers, etc.). The process of supplying water to such toys can be difficult for small children and can lead to significant spillage.
  • Typically, parents provide a supply of water, such as a hose connected to a water supply from a house, to a specified play area in a yard where children can enjoy various activities. The hose generally extends between the specified play area and a faucet with a shut-off valve. Excited and distracted children typically consider it inconvenient to travel back and forth between the valve and the play area to turn off the supply of water. This reduces the likelihood that a child will turn off the flow of water at the valve as required to minimize waste.
  • Even if a valve is provided at the downstream end of a hose, waste and spillage of water is still likely to occur, especially by very young children. Usually, children must hold the hose and direct the water toward a particular container (e.g., filling a squirt gun with a garden hose spray nozzle), which can be very difficult.
  • Thus, there is a need to develop an activity system that can be conveniently and easily used with a water supply. In addition, there is a need to provide an easy way for young children to provide water to and use water with an activity unit or mechanism. Finally, there is a need for a water supply system that easily supplies water to an activity unit without excessive water waste.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • The present invention relates to an activity system that can be used with a supply of fluid, such as water. In one embodiment, the activity system includes a supply unit that is configured to function as a source of water. The supply unit can be coupled to an external source of water, such as via a hose. The activity system also includes an activity unit that can be used by a child during play. The activity unit is configured so that it is engageable with the supply unit so that water from the supply unit can be provided to the activity unit. In one embodiment, the activity unit can be a container, such as a bucket or a squirt gun storage compartment. In another embodiment, the activity unit can be a more interactive unit, such as a spray-type activity unit like a sprinkler or a sprayer. The container is configured to contain water and the spray-type activity unit is configured to receive and disperse water continuously.
  • In one embodiment, the supply unit includes a housing with a passageway passing through the housing. Water enters the passageway through an inlet port or opening and is discharged from the passageway through an outlet port or opening. Proximate to the inlet port of the supply unit is a connector or coupler that is configured to be connected to a water supply, such as a hose or tubing.
  • In one embodiment, the supply unit housing includes a valve at the outlet port of the supply unit. The valve controls the flow of water through the passageway and through the outlet port. The valve includes a seat and a valve body that is movable relative to the seat between an opened position in which water flows through the valve and a closed position in which water is prevented from flowing through the valve. The seat can be configured to limit movement of the valve body in a particular direction. In one alternative embodiment, the valve may include a biasing mechanism, such as a spring, that is disposed to bias or force the valve body into engagement with the seat of the valve. Accordingly, in that embodiment, the valve of the supply unit is initially in its closed position.
  • When an external force is applied to the valve body, the valve body moves from its closed position in contact with the seat to its opened position spaced apart from the seat, provided that the external force is sufficient to overcome the pressure of the fluid on the other side of the valve body. Thus, when sufficient external force is applied by an external object, the valve body moves to its opened position and water can flow through the valve of the supply unit.
  • In one embodiment, the activity unit includes a body defining a receptacle. The body includes an inlet port that is in fluidic communication with the receptacle. In other words, the activity unit can be filled with a fluid, such as water, that passes through the inlet port of the body and into the receptacle where the water can be retained. In one embodiment, the activity unit includes a valve at the inlet port. The valve controls the flow of water through the inlet port. The valve includes a seat and a valve body that is movable relative to the seat between an opened position in which water can flow through the valve out of the activity unit and a closed position in which water is prevented from flowing through the valve and out of the activity unit. The valve also includes a biasing mechanism, such as a spring, that is disposed to bias or force the valve body into engagement with the seat of the valve. The valve of the activity unit is initially in its closed position and is configured to retain water in the activity unit.
  • When an external force is applied to the valve body of the activity unit, the valve body moves to is opened position. To transfer water from the supply unit to the activity unit, the outlet port of the supply unit must be aligned with the inlet port of the activity unit and the valves of the supply unit and the activity unit must be open at the same time. Thus, the valve bodies of the supply unit and the activity unit must be moved from their unbiased, closed positions to their opened positions to permit the flow of water through the valves.
  • In one embodiment, the activity unit can be used to apply the external force to the valve of the supply unit to move the valve body of the supply unit to its opened position. The valve body of the activity unit is configured so that it can be used to contact the valve body of the supply unit. As a result, the force applied by each valve body on the other valve body results in the valve bodies moving from their closed positions to their opened positions. In one embodiment, such movement may occur substantially simultaneously. With both of the valves open, water can flow from the supply unit into the activity unit. In different embodiments, the opening of the valves is determined by the characteristics of the biasing mechanism.
  • In another embodiment, the sprayer-type activity unit can be coupled to the supply unit using a quick-release locking mechanism. When the sprayer-type activity unit is coupled to the supply unit, a portion of the activity unit engages the valve of the supply unit and opens the valve so water can flow therethrough. The quick-release locking mechanism can be manipulated by a user to couple and decouple the activity unit easily.
  • In one embodiment, the sprayer-type activity unit includes a base and a sprayer or spraying unit. Engaging the base to the supply unit causes the valve of the supply unit to be opened and water can flow through the outlet port of the supply unit to the activity unit. When the base is decoupled from the supply unit, the valve body returns to its closed position and water does not flow through the outlet port of the supply unit. In one implementation, the sprayer-type activity unit can be a foot pedal activated sprayer.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • FIG. 1 illustrates a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of an activity system according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of an activity unit according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 3 illustrates a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a supply unit according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of an activity system according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective view of an embodiment of a supply unit of the activity system illustrated in FIG. 4.
  • FIG. 6 illustrates an exploded perspective view of the supply unit illustrated in FIG. 5.
  • FIG. 7 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of the supply unit illustrated in FIG. 5 with its valve in a closed configuration.
  • FIG. 7A illustrates a top view of an embodiment of a valve body of the supply unit illustrated in FIG. 5.
  • FIG. 8 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of the supply unit illustrated in FIG. 5 with its valve in an opened configuration.
  • FIG. 9 illustrates an exploded perspective view of an activity unit of the activity system illustrated in FIG. 4.
  • FIG. 10 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of a portion of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 9 with its valve in a closed position.
  • FIG. 11 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of a portion of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 9 with its valve in an opened position.
  • FIG. 12 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of a portion of the bottom of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 10.
  • FIG. 13 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of a portion of the activity unit coupled to the supply unit according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 13A illustrates a partial cross-sectional side view of some components of an alternative embodiment of an activity unit according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 14 illustrates a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of an activity system according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 15 illustrates a side view of an embodiment of an activity unit of the activity system illustrated in FIG. 14.
  • FIG. 16 illustrates an exploded perspective view of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 15.
  • FIG. 17 illustrates a cross-sectional side view of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 15.
  • FIG. 18 illustrates a perspective view of the locking mechanism and a portion of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 15.
  • FIG. 19 illustrates a bottom perspective view of some components of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 15.
  • FIG. 20 illustrates a cross-sectional perspective view of a portion of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 15.
  • FIG. 20A illustrates an alternative embodiment of a portion of an activity unit according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 21 illustrates a partial cross-sectional view of the activity unit illustrated in FIG. 14 with the activity unit being coupled to the supply unit and the valve of the supply unit being in its opened position.
  • FIG. 22 illustrates a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of an activity unit according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 23 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a valve with an actuator according to the present invention.
  • FIG. 24 illustrates an alternative embodiment of a valve according to the present invention.
  • Like reference numerals have been used to identify like elements throughout this disclosure.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • The terms “activity unit,” “activity mechanism,” and “activity system” may be used interchangeably herein to refer to a device with which a child can perform an activity, such as playing. In addition, the terms “supply unit,” “supply station,” “supply mechanism,” and “supply system” may be used interchangeably herein to refer to a device that is configured to supply a fluid to an activity unit. The terms “activity system” and “toy assembly” may be used interchangeably herein.
  • Referring to FIG. 1, a schematic block diagram of an activity system according to the present invention is illustrated. As shown, an activity system or toy assembly 10 can be used with a fluid source or supply 12. The activity system 10 includes a supply unit or station 20 and one or more activity systems or units 30 and 40. Each of the activity units 30 and 40 is configured to be used with the supply unit 20. The activity system 10 can be used to automatically transfer or supply fluid from a source 12 through supply unit 20 to one or more activity units 30 and 40.
  • In one embodiment, activity unit 30 is a container-like structure that includes a receptacle in which a fluid may be contained and stored therein for later use. Activity unit 30 can be a bucket or a storage portion of a squirt gun. Activity unit 40 can be a continuous use structure, such as a sprinkler or a sprayer, that is configured to use the water from the supply unit 20 continuously. For activity unit 40, water is continuously supplied to the activity unit 40 and is dispersed. In another embodiment, the activity unit can be a sprayer with a foot operated valve that is actuatable by a pedal.
  • As shown in FIG. 1, supply unit 20 includes a base or housing 22 that has a fluid passageway or system 24 therethrough. The passageway includes an inlet port or entrance 25 and an outlet port or exit 26. The supply unit 20 includes a valve 28 that controls the flow of water through the system or passageway 24. In one embodiment, the valve 28 is proximate to the outlet port 26 and controls the flow of water therethrough. The valve 28 has an open or opened position and a closed position. The normal rest position of valve 28 is its closed position. In one embodiment, the valve 28 can have a variable flow function that can be manipulated by a user to change and control the fluid flow through the valve 28. A user can engage and apply a force to a portion of the valve 28 with an external object to move the valve 28 from its closed position to its opened position, thereby allowing water to flow through the outlet port 26.
  • Referring to FIG. 1, activity unit or system 30 includes a container or housing 32 that has an inlet port 34. The housing 32 defines a receptacle or cavity in which water can be stored or contained. The inlet port 34 is in communication with the housing 32 and is configured so that water can flow therethrough to the receptacle of the housing 32. The activity unit 30 also includes a valve 36 that has a valve body that is movable between an opened position and a closed position. The valve 36 controls the flow of water into and out of the housing 32. While normally disposed in its closed position, valve 36 can be moved to its opened position by applying a force to its valve body.
  • Each of the valves 28 and 36 must be in its opened position for water to be delivered from supply unit 20 to activity unit 30 through ports 26 and 34. In one embodiment, valve 28 requires a force in an upstream direction and valve 36 requires a force in a downstream direction. Each of the valves 28 and 36 can be used to apply the necessary force to the other of the valves 28 and 36. In other words, valve 28 can be pressed against valve 36 and the resulting force causes both of the valves 28 and 36 to open. When the valves 28 and 36 are opened, water can flow through the outlet port 26 and the inlet port 34.
  • Referring to FIG. 1, activity unit or system 40 can be engaged with supply unit 20 in lieu of activity unit 30. Activity unit 40 is a device that is configured to distribute water continuously, such as a sprinkler or sprayer. Activity unit 40 includes a base or body 42 that has an inlet port 44. In one embodiment, the activity unit 40 has a valve 48 associated with the inlet port 44. In an alternative embodiment, the activity unit 40 does not have a valve 48 associated with the inlet port 44, in which case the inlet port 44 is in a continuously open configuration. The activity unit 40 also includes an outlet port 46 through which water from the supply unit 20 can be discharged. The outlet port 46 can be an opening formed in the body 42 and may or may not include a nozzle or nozzle portion coupled thereto.
  • The body 42 of the activity unit 40 can be disposed proximate to and engaged with the base 22 of the supply unit 20 to automatically open valve 28 to allow water to flow therethrough. The body 42 may include an extension or projection that is configured to engage the valve 28 and cause the valve 28 to move from its closed position to its opened position. When valve 28 is forced into its opened position, supply unit 20 continuously provides water to activity unit 40. When the base 42 is decoupled from supply unit 20, valve 28 moves to its normally closed position and the flow of water through outlet port 26 is stopped.
  • Referring to FIG. 2, a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of a supply unit or station according to the present invention is illustrated. In this embodiment, the supply unit 50 includes a base or housing 52 that has a passageway or system 54 through which water can flow. The base 52 includes an inlet port 56 that can be coupled or connected to a fluid source (not shown in FIG. 2). In addition, the base 52 includes an outlet port 58 through which water can flow from the supply unit 50.
  • As shown, the supply unit 50 also includes a valve 60 that is associated with the outlet port 58. The valve 60 includes a seat 62 that is formed proximate to and may define a portion of the outlet port 58. In addition, the valve 60 includes a body or body portion 64 that is movable between a closed position 68 and an opened position 69 (shown in dashed lines). In its closed position 68, the body 64 of the valve 60 engages the outlet port 58, and in particular, the seat 62, to close the outlet port 58 and prevent the flow of water therethrough.
  • Referring to FIG. 3, a schematic block diagram of an embodiment of an activity unit is illustrated. In this embodiment, the activity unit or system 70 includes a container body 72 that defines a receptacle or cavity in which water may be stored. The body 72 includes an inlet port 74 that is in fluidic communication with the receptacle. The activity unit 70 also includes a valve 80 that includes a seat 82 that forms or defines a portion of the inlet port 74. The valve 80 includes a body or body portion 84 that is movable between a closed position 88 and an opened position 89 (shown in dashed lines). The valve 80 also includes a biasing mechanism 86 that biases or forces the body 84 into its closed position 88. In its closed position 88, the body 84 of the valve 80 engages the inlet port 74 to close the inlet port 74 and prevent the flow of water therethrough.
  • Referring to FIG. 4, an embodiment of an activity system according to the present invention is illustrated. In this embodiment, the activity system or toy assembly 100 includes a supply unit or station 200 and an activity unit or station 500. The supply unit 200 includes a base or housing 202 and a connector or coupler 400 coupled thereto. The connector 400 is configured to be coupled to a hose or other device that can be used to supply water to the supply unit 200. In this embodiment, the connector 400 includes threads 408 to facilitate the coupling of a device to the connector 400.
  • In this embodiment, the activity unit 500 is a container, such as a bucket. In other embodiments, the activity unit 500 can be a watering can or similar object that is configured to hold a fluid. The activity unit 500 has a body 502 with a wall 510 that defines a receptacle 522. The body 502 includes a rim 514 around its upper end. Coupled to the rim 514 are projections or posts 516 and 518. The posts 516 and 518 can be integrally formed with the rim 514. Coupleable to the body 502 is a handle 530 that has ends 532 and 534. The handle 530 includes a gripping portion 535 and includes openings 536 and 539 formed therein to receive posts 516 and 518 (see FIG. 9).
  • Referring to FIG. 5, an embodiment of a supply station or unit according to the present invention is illustrated. In this embodiment, the supply station or unit 200 includes a base or housing 202 with a body 204. The body 204 includes a fluid passageway that begins with an inlet port 207 and terminates with an outlet structure or port 241 with opening 272. As mentioned above, proximate to inlet port 207 is a connector 400 that can be used to couple a hose or other supply structure to the housing 202.
  • As shown, the housing 202 includes several ribs or ridges 205 that are spaced apart around an upper side or surface 208 of the body 204. The ribs 205 provide strength to the housing 202 as well as ornamentation. The body 204 has a wall portion 212 that defines perimeter or perimeter portion 206 that extends around the outer portion of the body 204. In different embodiments, the shape and configuration of the housing 202 can vary and be any size or type.
  • Proximate to the outlet port 241 is a mounting or coupling area 220. The coupling area 220 includes a wall 222 that has edges 224 and 226 that define openings or notches 228 and 230. The notches 228 and 230 divide the wall 222 into wall portions 232 and 234, which with plate 242, collectively define a receiving area 236. In use, the notches 228 and 230 provide access to the engaging portion 808 of the locking mechanism 800, which is described in detail below. In addition, the notches 228 and 230 are configured to receive the guide portion 720, which is described in detail below. The receiving area 236 receives a portion of the container 500 that is placed on the supply unit 200. The wall 222 is configured to support different activity units that are placed on and connected to supply unit 200.
  • Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, an exploded perspective view and a cross-sectional side view of the supply unit 200, respectively, are illustrated. The base or housing 202 includes a body 204 with a lower side or surface 210 that defines a receptacle or cavity 211. The wall portion 212 of the base or housing 202 includes an edge 214 that defines an opening or notch 216 which can be used as a connecting area 218. The passageway of the supply unit 200 includes piping or tubing 370 with ends 372 and 374. As shown in FIG. 7, a coupling portion 376 is located proximate to end 374. The coupling portion 376 includes a flange 378 that can be used to couple the connector 400 to the piping 370. The piping 370 includes an inner surface 380 that defines a passageway or channel 382 that has an opening 384 proximate to end 374.
  • The connector 400 can be molded plastic and include a body 402 with an inner surface 404 and an outer surface 406. The inner surface 404 can include threads 408 formed thereon that are configured to be coupled to the end of a hose or other water supply structure (not shown). A conventional washer 410 can be used with the connector 400.
  • The passageway of the supply unit 200 is also formed by connector 330 which includes a body 332 with an inner surface 341 that defines a channel or passageway 342. The channel 342 extends from end 346 defined by tubular portion 344 to end 354 formed by tubular portion 352. An outlet opening 358 is defined proximate to end 354 and an inlet opening 350 is defined proximate to end 346. The body 332 has an upper surface 334 with several holes or openings 336, 338, and 340 formed therein. The openings 336, 338, and 340 are configured to receive fasteners 249, such as screws, therein to mount the connector 330 as shown in FIG. 7.
  • As shown in FIG. 6, the supply unit 200 includes a mounting structure 420 with end portions 422 and 424 and a central guide portion 426. The central guide portion 426 is configured to receive and support part of the piping 370. The end portions 422 and 424 are configured to be coupled by fasteners to the body 204 to secure the piping 370 relative to the body 204.
  • Referring to FIGS. 6 and 7, the supply unit 200 also includes a valve 240. In this embodiment, the valve 240 includes a plate 242 and a valve body 300 that is movably mounted relative to the plate 242. In this embodiment, the plate 242 includes an outer side 244 and an opposite inner side 246. On the inner side 246 of the plate 242, there is an inner extension 245, an outer extension 247, and several mounting posts 248, 250, and 252 extending downwardly from the plate 242. The mounting posts 248, 250, and 252 are used to couple the plate 240 to other components of the supply unit 200. The extensions 245 and 247 (see FIGS. 6 and 7) collectively define a space or channel therebetween that is configured to receive the upper end 354 of the connector 330. As shown in FIG. 7, an 0-ring 282 can be disposed proximate to the lower end of the extension 245 and form a sealed interface with the upper surface of the connector 330.
  • As shown in FIG. 6, coupled to the plate 242 is an extension 254 that has an outer surface 256 that defines a shoulder portion 258 that forms a groove 260. The extension 254 has a distal end 266 and an inner surface 268 that defines a channel 270 extending through the valve 240 from opening 272. An O-ring 280 can be placed in the groove 260 as shown in FIG. 7 so that a sealed engagement is achieved between the supply unit 200 and an activity unit 500 placed thereon.
  • The valve 240 also includes a valve body 300 as shown in FIG. 6. The valve body 300 has opposite ends 302 and 304 and portions 310 and 312. The upper portion of the valve body 300 can be referred to as a stem or valve stem. Portion 312 is proximate to end 304 and includes a shoulder 314 that defines a groove 316. As shown in FIG. 7, an O-ring 284 can be placed on the valve body 300 and disposed in the groove 316. The valve body 300 includes several ribs 323 that define spaces or gaps 324 therebetween. (as shown in FIG. 7A which is a top view of valve body 300). The spaces or gaps 324 permit the flow of a fluid therethrough and are discussed in greater detail relative to FIG. 8.
  • The valve body 300 is movably disposed in the channel 270. In other words, the valve body 300 is disposed within the valve. The valve body 300 is illustrated in FIG. 7 in its closed position 306 in which an engagement surface 320 formed on the valve body 300 engages a corresponding seat or surface on the valve 240 to prevent the flow of fluid along the direction of arrow “A.” The valve body 300 is moved outwardly along the direction of arrow “A” by the force of fluid flowing through the passageway or channel 382. In one embodiment, as soon as there is a flow of fluid in the passageway 382 which develops a sufficient force, the valve body 300 moves outwardly and closes the valve 240. Accordingly, the valve 240 has a natural bias or tendency to move to a closed position with the presence of fluid, thereby controlling the flow of fluid through the valve 240.
  • Referring to FIG. 8, the valve 240 is illustrated in a different configuration. In this configuration, the valve body 300 is moved along the direction of arrow “B” to its opened position 308. The valve body 300 moves when a force is applied thereto along the direction of arrow “B” so long as the force is sufficient to overcome the force of flow pressure which is along in the direction of arrow “C.” When the valve body 300 moves to its opened position 308, the engagement surface 320 disengages and separates from the inner surface 268 of the seat. As a result, water can flow along the directions of arrows “D” between the inner surface 268 and the valve body 300. When the valve 240 opens, water can flow through the passageway defined by tubing 370 and connector 330 along the direction of arrow “E” in FIG. 8. When the external force applied to valve body 300 is removed, the pressure of the fluid flow in passageway 382 forces the valve body 300 into engagement with the inner surface 268, thereby preventing the flow of fluid through the valve 240 along the directions of arrows “D.” The O-ring 280 is disposed proximate to shoulder 258 as shown.
  • Referring to FIGS. 9-12, some of the features of the container 500 are illustrated. Referring to FIG. 9, the body 502 of the container 500 has an upper end 504 and an opposite lower end 506. The previously described wall 5 10, rim 514, and posts 516 and 518 as well as the various features of the handle 530 are illustrated in FIG. 9. The wall 510 has an inner surface 512 that defines a receptacle 522. While body 502 is cylindrical, in different embodiments, the body 502 can have different shapes and configurations. As described above, the handle 530 has openings 536 and 538 disposed proximate to ends 532 and 534, respectively. In one embodiment between the ends 532 and 534 is a gripping portion 535.
  • Referring to FIGS. 11 and 12, the body 502 includes a bottom portion 520 that has an outer bottom portion 540 and an inner bottom portion 542. Each of the bottom portions 540 and 542 is circular in configuration. The inner bottom portion 542 is stepped or spaced inwardly to accommodate the corresponding portion of a supply unit 200 to which the container 500 is mounted or coupled. The inner bottom portion 542 includes a wall 544 and a coupling area 546. A substantially vertical portion 543 connects the outer and inner bottom portions 540 and 542.
  • Referring to FIG. 12, the bottom portion 520 includes a seat 550 that has an outer wall portion 552, which is the inner portion of wall 544, with an outer surface 554 and an inner surface 556. The outer wall portion 552 has an end 560 with an opening in communication with a channel 558 through which a fluid can flow. The bottom portion 520 also includes an inner wall portion 570 that has a body portion 572 with an inner surface 574 and extends to end 580. Proximate to the end 580 is a contact surface 582 that is engaged by an O-ring 650 as described below. A shoulder 575 formed on the inner surface 574 defines a channel or passageway 578. Proximate to the shoulder 575 is a recess or step 576 that forms a different sized opening than the shoulder 575. In this embodiment, the outer wall portion 552 and the inner wall portion 570 are integrally formed with the bottom portion 520 and in particular, with the inner bottom portion 542.
  • Referring back to FIG. 9, the valve 600 includes a flow control portion 630 and a lower portion 610. The lower portion 610 includes a flange 612 and is coupleable to the flow control portion 630 via a connector 620. Alternatively, a screw or other connector may be inserted into the top side of the flow control portion 630 to couple portion 630 to the lower portion 610. A biasing mechanism 660 having ends 662 and 664 is slidable on the flow control portion 630 and mountable between the flow control portion 630 and the lower portion 610. In addition, an O-ring 650 is coupleable to the flow control portion 630.
  • Referring to FIG. 10, additional features of the inlet components of the container 500 are illustrated. As shown, the valve 600 includes a valve body 601 with an upper end 602 and a lower end 604. The valve 600 is movable between a closed position 606 (see FIG. 10) and an opened position 608 (see FIG. 11). The flange 612 has an inner surface 616 and an outer surface 614. A biasing mechanism 660, such as a spring, engages the inner surface 616 to force or bias the valve 600 along the direction of arrow “F” to its closed configuration 606 (see FIG. 10). The flow control portion 630 includes a center portion 632, a contact portion 634, and a flange portion 636. In that configuration, the flow control portion 630 with O-ring 650 engages the upper end 582. As a result, the flow of fluid through the valve 600 and into the receptacle 522 defined by body 510 is prevented.
  • In an alternative embodiment, the valve 600 does not include a biasing mechanism 660. In that embodiment, the valve body 601 has a sufficient weight so that the valve body 601 is moved to its normally closed position by gravity in lieu of biasing mechanism 660.
  • Referring to FIG. 11, the valve 600 is illustrated in its opened configuration 608. When a force is applied to the valve body 610 along the direction of arrow “G,” such as to lower portion 610, the flange 612 moves along the same direction and compresses the biasing mechanism 660, provided that the force is sufficient to overcome the force of the biasing mechanism 660. As the valve body 601, including contact portion 634, moves away from the seat 550, a gap is formed between the O-ring 650 and the upper end 582 and water can flow along the directions of arrows “I” into the receptacle 522.
  • When the externally applied force is removed from the valve 600, the biasing mechanism 660 forces the valve body 601 downwardly along the direction of arrow “F” in FIG. 10 to its closed position 606. When the valve body 601 is in its closed position 606, fluid in the receptacle 522 is retained therein and prevented from exiting the container 500 through the opening.
  • Referring to FIG. 13, container 500 is illustrated as being mounted on the supply unit 200. The valve 600 of the container 500 is illustrated in its open position or configuration 608 and the valve 240 of the supply unit 200, in particular valve body 300, is illustrated in its open position or configuration 308. Both valves 240 and 600 need to be in their opened positions for fluid to flow through the outlet port 241 of valve 240, through valve 600 and into the receptacle 522 defined by wall 510.
  • The operating structures of valve 240 and valve 600 provide a simple method of opening both valves at the same time. Valve 240 requires an opening force in the upstream direction and the valve 600 requires an opening force in an opposite downstream direction. Since valves 240 and 600 require opposing opening forces, the valves 240 and 600 can both be opened by bringing a portion of valve 240 (such as valve body 300) into engagement with a portion of valve 600 (such as valve body 601). Therefore, opening both valves 240 and 600 can be accomplished by forcing valve body 300 into engagement with valve body 601, thereby providing the external force needed to open the other corresponding valve.
  • As shown in FIG. 13, when the container 500 is mounted or placed on the supply unit 200, the wall 544 of the bottom portion 520 of the container 500 extends downwardly and slides over the extension 254 of the supply unit 200. In particular, the O-ring 280 mounted on the extension 254 engages the inner surface of wall 544 and provides a sealed interface therebetween, forming a sealed connection.
  • When the container 500 is placed onto the supply unit 200, the valve 600, including valve body 601, engages the upper end of the valve body 300. As valve body 601 engages the valve body 300, valve body 601 moves along the direction of arrow “K” toward its opened position 608. As container 500 is pressed against the supply unit 200, the movement of the flange 612 upwardly is limited by the seat 550 (see FIG. 12) so that pressing down of the container 500 by a user eventually provides sufficient force to the valve body 300 to unseat the valve body 300 from its closed position. The force of container 500 toward supply unit 200 results in the displacement of valve 600 in an upstream direction. At the same time, valve body 300 (shown in its closed, initial position 308) moves along the direction of arrow “L” to its opened position. When the valves 240 and 600 are opened, fluid can flow along the direction of arrow “M” through the supply unit 200 and into the container 500 along the directions of arrows “J.”
  • When the valve 600 is in its opened position, fluid flows in along the spaces or voids 324 in the valve body 300. The voids 324 are recesses that allow fluid to flow between the valve body 300 and the inner surfaces or walls defining the inlet port for the container 500 when the valve body 300 is unseated. When container 500 is disengaged from supply unit 200, valve body 300 returns to its closed position and valve 600 returns to its closed position. When valve 600 is closed, fluid in the receptacle 522 of the container 500 cannot escape through the port. A child can transport or carry the container 500 and the fluid therein to participate in a fun activity.
  • In an alternative embodiment, as shown in FIG. 13A, the supply unit 200 may include a biasing mechanism 360, such as a spring, that is disposed between the valve body 300 and the connector 330 to bias the valve body 300 along the direction of arrow “A.” The valve body 300 has a lower surface or end 322 that is configured to be engaged by a biasing mechanism 360. The biasing mechanism 360 can be a spring and is configured to bias or force the valve body 300 outwardly along the direction of arrow “A1.” The biasing mechanism 360 is placed so that it also engages the end 354 of the connector 330. In one embodiment, the biasing mechanism 360 can be stronger or more resilient than the biasing mechanism 660. In that implementation, valve 600 opens before valve 240 opens. In an alternative embodiment, the biasing mechanism 660 can be stronger than the biasing mechanism 360. In this implementation, valve 240 opens before valve 600 opens. In yet another embodiment, the biasing mechanisms 360 and 660 have similar characteristics.
  • Referring to FIG. 14, an alternative embodiment of an activity unit or mechanism according to the present invention is illustrated. As shown, activity unit 700 is coupleable or mountable to the supply unit 200 that includes a base 202 and a connector 400. In this embodiment, the activity unit 700 includes an activity portion 704 that is configured to discharge or spray water. Water can be sprayed from the activity portion 704 as the activity portion 704 remains stationary or moves. While activity unit 700 is shown with a single outlet or port for each arm or portion of the activity portion 704, in various embodiments, more than one outlet or port can be provided on each arm. In addition, the sizes and configurations of the outlets or ports can vary. The activity portion 704 is rotatably mounted so that it spins about a vertical axis. The spinning of the activity portion is due to the orientation of the outlets or ports and the direction of fluid flowing therefrom. In alternative embodiments, the activity portion 704 can be configured or oriented so that it rotates or moves about an axis that is not aligned with a vertical axis.
  • The activity unit 700 also includes a decorative or ornamental portion 706 proximate to the activity portion 704. While in this implementation, the ornamental portion 706 resembles the petals of a flower, in other implementations, the ornamental portion 706 can have different shapes and configurations. The activity unit 700 also includes a base 710 that is disposed on the supply unit 200. The base 710 can include a guide portion 720 that is configured to engage one of the notches 228 or 230. The other of the notches 228 and 230 provides a user access to the engaging portion 808 of the locking mechanism 800.
  • Referring to FIG. 15, additional features of the activity unit 700 are illustrated. The activity portion 704 of the activity unit 700 includes a center body portion 760 that has several arms 762, 764, and 766 extending therefrom. Each of the arms 762, 764, and 766 includes a discharge opening (only openings 768 and 770 shown in FIG. 15) through which a fluid can exit the arm. In different embodiments, the quantity of arms and the quantity of openings for each arm can vary. As shown in FIG. 15, the ornamental portion 706 is substantially planar and includes a body 750 that has an upper surface 752 and a lower surface 754.
  • The base 710 can be referred to as a coupling portion 702 of the activity unit 700. In this embodiment, the base 710 includes a body 712 with a lower end 714 and an upper end 716. The body 712 has an outer surface 718 that is configured to be slid into the receiving area 236 defined by wall 222 on the supply unit 200. The outer configuration of the body 712 is substantially cylindrical to match the shape of the receiving area 236. A guide portion 720, as referenced above, can be coupled to or formed on the body 710. The guide portion 720 includes a lower surface 722 that is configured to have a similar shape to notches 228 and 230.
  • Referring to FIG. 16, an exploded perspective view of various components of an activity unit is illustrated. The body 750 of the ornamental portion 706 includes a centrally located opening 756 that is used to mount the ornamental portion 706. The ornamental portion 706 also includes several petals 758 that are spaced apart via notches.
  • In this embodiment, the activity portion 704 has an upper housing 900 that is formed separately from and coupled to a lower housing 902 by several fasteners 904 that can be inserted through openings in the lower housing 902 and connected to the upper housing 900. The activity portion 704 also includes several tubes or tubular portions (only tubes 910 and 912 are shown). Each tube is disposed within one of the arms 762, 764, and 766 and connected to the corresponding discharge opening of the respective arm.
  • The activity unit 700 includes a supply structure 950, a portion of which is disposed between the upper housing 900 and the lower housing 902 of the activity portion 704. Even though the supply structure 950 is illustrated as being below a plate 930 and housing 710 in FIG. 16, a substantial portion of the supply structure 950 is captured between upper housing 900 and lower housing 902.
  • In this embodiment, the supply structure 950 includes a shaft 952 that is coupled to a plate 954. Formed with the plate 954 are several discharge tubes 956, 958, and 960. Each of the discharge tubes 956, 958, and 960 includes an opening or port 962, 964, and 965 and is coupled to one of the tubes (including tubes 910 and 912). Fluid flowing upwardly through a passageway in the shaft 952 also flows radially through discharge tubes 956, 958, and 960 and tubes 910 and 912 and outwardly through the openings in the arms 762, 764, and 766. The shaft 952 includes a lower end 966. Disposed beneath the activity portion 704 is a plate 930 that has a central opening 932 and that is used to mount the ornamental portion 706.
  • Referring to FIG. 16, the body 712 of the base 710 has an upper end 716 and a lower end 714. On a side of the body 712 opposite to the guide portion 720 is an opening 746, the function of which is described in detail below. A plate 730 is disposed at the lower end of the activity unit 700. The plate 730 includes a tubular member or shaft 726 that has an opening 732 formed therein. The plate 730 can be coupled to the lower end 714 of body 712 via fasteners, such as screws. The lower end 966 of the shaft 952 can be disposed proximate to and in contact with the upper end of the shaft 726 on plate 730.
  • In this embodiment, the activity unit 700 also includes a lock or locking mechanism 800 that can be used to couple and secure activity unit 700 to the supply unit 200. The locking mechanism 800 is disposed within the body 712 of the base 710. The locking mechanism 800 includes an engaging portion 808 and a distal portion 810 between which a central area 816 is formed. As described in greater detail below, the engaging portion 808 is configured to be positioned in the opening 746 in the body 712 and engageable by a user. The locking mechanism 800 is flexible and the engaging portion 808 is movable relative to the distal portion 810.
  • A cross-sectional view of the activity unit 700 is illustrated in FIG. 17. As shown, the shaft 952 of the supply structure 950 includes a channel or passageway 968 that extends from the lower end 966 to the discharge tubes 956, 958, and 960. Fluid flows from the lower end 966 along the direction of arrow “N” along the passageway 968. Discharge opening 965 for one of the arms of the activity unit 700 is illustrated in FIG. 17. As shown, the upper portion of the supply structure 950 is disposed between the upper housing 900 and the lower housing 902. In addition, the plate 930 is shown being used to mount the body 750 of the ornamental portion 706.
  • Referring to FIG. 17, some of the internal components of the base 710 are illustrated. In this illustrated, plate 730 is coupled to the lower end 714 of the base 710 opposite the upper end 716. The tubular member or shaft 726 has an inner surface 728 and an opening 724 into which fluid may flow. The passageway defined by the inner surface 728 is in fluidic communication with the passageway 968 of the shaft 952.
  • Referring to FIGS. 18-20, the details and operation of the locking mechanism 800 are illustrated and described. The locking mechanism 800 is used to couple the body of the activity unit to a supply unit. The locking mechanism 800 can be manipulated by a user easily to decouple the activity unit from the supply unit.
  • As shown in FIG. 18, the plate 730 includes a shaft 726 that has an upper end 727. An opening 732 is defined by the upper end 727. The shaft 726 includes an inner surface that defines a channel or passageway 725 through which fluid can flow. A support section 731 is disposed within the passageway 725. The support section 731 includes several openings 733 through which fluid can flow. As shown in FIG. 19, the support section 731 includes a projection 743 on its lower surface extending downwardly therefrom. As described in greater detail below, the projection 743 is configured to engage the valve body 300 of the supply unit 200 when activity unit 700 is mounted on the supply unit 200.
  • The plate 730 also includes a lower surface 730A, an upper surface 730B, and openings 734A and 734B between the lower surface 730A and the upper surface 730B. The openings 734A and 734B are configured to receive fasteners 748 and 749, such as screws, to couple the plate 730 to the body 712 of the base 710 (see FIG. 19).
  • Referring to FIG. 18, the plate 730 includes guides 735 and 736. Guide 735 includes wall portions 737A and 737B that are integrally formed with the plate 730. Similarly, guide 736 includes a pair of wall portions (only wall portion 738A is shown) integrally formed with the plate 730. The guides 735 and 736 are used to guide and retain the locking mechanism 800 as described in detail below.
  • Locking mechanism 800 includes a body 802 with opposite ends 804 and 806. The engaging portion 808 is proximate to end 804 and the distal end 810 is proximate to end 806. In one embodiment, the engaging portion 808 includes a surface 809 with several ridges formed thereon that facilitate the engagement of the engaging portion 808 by a user. The body 802 includes side portions 812 and 814 that define therebetween a central area 816. The body 802 also includes pairs of plates 824 and 826 and plates 828 and 830 which provide stability and stiffness to the body 802.
  • The base 710 defines an interior chamber or cavity 745 as shown in FIG. 20. When the locking mechanism 800 is mounted in the base 710, the distal portion 810 is retained in place relative to the base 710 and the engaging portion 808 is movable relative to the base 710. As a user presses on the engaging portion 808 along the direction of arrow “Q” in FIG. 18, end 804 moves toward end 806. Since end 806 does not move, the applied force to end 804 causes the side portions 812 and 814 to move outwardly along the directions of arrows “O” and “P,” respectively. The side portions 812 and 814 are illustrated in FIG. 18 in their respective locked positions. As the side portions 812 and 814 move outwardly, the side portions 812 and 814 move to their unlocked positions. When the side portions 812 and 814 are in their locked positions, the locking mechanism 800 can be used to couple an activity unit to a structure such as a supply unit.
  • Referring to FIG. 19, the locking projections that are formed on the side portions 812 and 814 of the locking mechanism 800 are illustrated. In particular, locking projection 820 is formed on side portion 812 and locking projection 822 is formed on side portion 814. FIG. 19 shows the locking projections 820 and 822 in their locking positions. In these positions, the locking projections 820 and 822 are configured to engage a groove formed by a shoulder on the outer surface 256 of the shaft 254. When the projections 820 and 822 engage the groove, the movement of the activity unit 700 away from the supply unit 200 is restricted.
  • As a user presses on the engaging portion 808 of the locking mechanism 800, which is accessible via the opening 746, the locking projections 820 and 822 move outwardly along the directions of arrows “S” and “R,” respectively, from their locking positions illustrated in FIG. 19 to unlocking positions. Such movement of the projections 820 and 822 results in the disengagement of the projections 820 and 822 from the groove on the extension 254.
  • As shown, on opposite sides of the plate 730 are notches 739A and 739B defined by wall edges 741A and 741B. The notches 739A and 739B include openings 740 and 742 through which the locking projections 820 and 822 can slidably move. Thus, when a user presses on engaging portion 808, locking projections 820 and 822 move outwardly. When the user releases the engaging portion 808, the natural bias of the locking mechanism 800 causes the engaging portion 808 to move outwardly and the side portions 812 and 814 and locking projections 820 and 822 to move inwardly and toward each other to their locked positions.
  • Referring to FIG. 20, some of the components of the base 710 and the locking mechanism 800 are illustrated. As shown, at the upper end 716 of the base 710 an edge 717 defines an opening 719 through which shaft 952 extends. The lower end 966 of the shaft 952 is placed in engagement with the support section 731 of shaft 726 such that the openings 733 in the support section 731 are in fluidic communication with the passageway 968 of the shaft 952. As shown, the projection 743 projects downwardly.
  • As shown in FIG. 20, the engaging portion 808 of the locking mechanism 800 is disposed in the opening 746 in the base 710. The base 710 includes a notch or recess 744 that receives the distal portion 810 to limit the movement of the distal portion 810 relative to the base 710. Thus, as a user presses on engaging portion 808, the engaging portion 808 moves toward the distal portion 810.
  • In FIG. 20, the guide plates 826 and 828 are illustrated relative to guides 736 and 735, respectively, of plate 730. As shown, notch 739B is defined by wall edge 741B and is in communication with opening 740. Locking projection 822 of the locking mechanism 800 extends inwardly through opening 740 and notch 739B as shown. In this position, the locking projection 822 is in its locked position. Similarly, locking projection 820 extends inwardly in toward locking projection 822.
  • Referring to FIG. 20A, an alternative embodiment of some components of an activity unit are illustrated. In one embodiment, a molded washer 1300 with a central opening 1302 can be placed between the lower end 966 of the shaft 952 and the upper surface of the support section 731. Either alternatively or in addition to washer 1300, another molded washer 1310 with a central opening 1312 can be placed proximate to the lower surface of the support section 731. While washers 1300 and 1310 are illustrated as being separate structures that can be removably placed between particular components, in different embodiments, one or both of the washers can be molded as part of the support structure 731. In that implementation, the washers can be integrally formed with the support structure 731.
  • Referring to FIG. 21, a cross-sectional view of some of the components of the activity unit 700 and the supply unit 200 is illustrated. In FIG. 21, the activity unit 700 is coupled or mounted to the supply unit 200 and includes an activity portion 704 and an ornamental portion body 750. In particular, the base 710 of the activity unit 700 is engaged in the receiving area 236 defined by wall 222. The O-ring 280 forms a sealed interface with an inner surface of the shaft 726. When the activity unit 700 is placed on the supply unit 200, the projection 743 engages the valve body 300 and presses the valve body 300 along the direction of arrow “T” against the bias of the flow of fluid. When the valve body 300 moves a sufficient distance along the direction of arrow “T,” the O-ring 284 disengages from the engagement surface 268, thereby allowing a fluid to flow around the valve body 300, provided that a supply of fluid is connected to connector 400. When the valve body 300 is in its opened position, fluid can flow through tube 370 and connector 330 along the direction of arrow “U.” The fluid then flows around valve body 300 and into the passageway 968 and out openings of the activity portion 704 (only opening 965 is illustrated in FIG. 21).
  • The activity unit 700 is illustrated in FIG. 21 as being coupled to the supply unit 200. In this position, the projections 820 and 822 of the locking mechanism 800 engage a groove formed on the shaft or extension 254. When a user wants to disconnect or remove the activity unit 700, the user can turn off the supply of fluid to the supply unit 200. Then the user engages the locking mechanism 800 to move it to its unlocked configuration by moving the locking projections 820 and 822 outwardly as described above. The projections 820 and 822 in their unlocked positions no longer engage the extension 254 and the activity unit 700 can move relative to the supply unit 200.
  • Referring to FIG. 22, an alternative embodiment of an activity member 1000 is illustrated. In this embodiment, the activity member 1000 includes a base 1010 with an opening 1012 and an upper end 1014. A locking mechanism 1020 is coupled to the base 1010 and functions in a manner similar to locking mechanism 800 described above. The activity member 1000 includes an activity portion 1030 with a central portion 1032 having several arms 1040, 1042, and 1044. Each of the arms 1040, 1042, and 1044 includes an opening (only openings 1050 and 1052 are illustrated) through which a fluid can be discharged.
  • Referring to FIG. 23, some components of an alternative embodiment of a supply unit are illustrated. In this embodiment, the supply unit includes a valve 1100 that has a valve portion 1102 with an inner surface 1104 defining a passageway 1106 through which fluid can flow along the direction of arrow “X.” An exit port or outlet 1108 is provided at one end of the valve. A valve body 1110 is movably disposed in the passageway 1106 and can be forced to its closed position 1112 shown in FIG. 23 by the pressure from fluid in passageway 1106 or alternatively, by a biasing mechanism (not illustrated).
  • In this embodiment, an actuator 1120, which can be a foot-operated or hand-operated lever or pedal, is provided to move the valve body 1110 from its closed position to its opened position. In various embodiments, the size, configuration, and location of the actuator 1120 can vary. In the embodiment illustrated in FIG. 23, the actuator 1120 includes a body portion 1122 and a connector portion 1124 that couples the body portion 1122 to the valve body 1110. The actuator 1120 is illustrated in its closed position 1126 in FIG. 23. When a user applies a force to the body portion 1122 along the direction of arrow “W,” the valve body 1110 moves along the direction of arrow “Y” against the pressure of the fluid in the passageway 1106 and the valve 1100 is opened. In alternative embodiments, an activity unit may include an actuator that can be activated by a user to open the valve of the activity unit.
  • In another embodiment, the connector portion 1124 may be formed of a single component as illustrated or may be formed as a linkage that causes a user input to result in movement of the valve body. The linkage may be formed of two or more members that are movably coupled to each other and disposed between the body portion 1122 and the valve body 1110. The linkage may include pivotally coupled link members. Alternatively, the linkage may include one or more gears and/or cam members or components with cam surfaces. In other embodiments, the movement of the valve body can be a manual process or a mechanical or motor-drive process.
  • Referring to FIG. 24, an alternative embodiment of a valve according to the present invention is illustrated. This valve can be used on either or both of an activity unit and a supply unit. In this embodiment, the valve 1200 includes a main portion 1202 with an inner surface 1204 that defines a passageway 1206 through which fluid can flow to an outlet or port 1208. Proximate to the end of the valve 1200 with port 1208 is a magnet or magnetic member 1210. The magnet 1210 can be formed in the main portion 1202 (such as by molding) or coupled to part of the main portion 1202. In an alternative embodiment, an additional magnet 1212 (shown in dashed lines in FIG. 24) can be provided in the main portion 1202 as well.
  • In one embodiment, the valve body 1220 includes a magnet or magnetic member 1210 coupled thereto. Magnet 1210 is configured and oriented so that it exerts an attractive force on magnet 1222 to attract magnet 1222 along the direction of arrow “Z” as shown in FIG. 24. As a result, valve body 1220 moves along the direction of arrow “Z” to close the outlet 1208 and prevent the flow of fluid therethrough. Accordingly, the magnets 1210 and 1222 move the valve body 1220 to a closed position relative to the outlet portion 1208.
  • In an alternative embodiment, the magnets 1210 and 1222 can be configured and oriented so that the magnets 1210 and 1222 repel each other and force the valve body 1220 to an opened position relative to the outlet portion 1208. In various embodiments, the strength, configuration, location and size of the magnets can vary.
  • While the invention has been described in detail and with reference to specific embodiments thereof, it will be apparent to one skilled in the art that various changes and modifications can be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope thereof. For example, it is to be understood that terms such as “top,” “bottom,” “front,” “rear,” “side,” “height,” “length,” “width,” “upper,” “lower,” “interior,” “exterior,” “inner,” “outer,” and the like as may be used herein, merely describe points of reference and do not limit the present invention to any particular orientation or configuration. Thus, it is intended that the present invention covers the modifications and variations of this invention provided they come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.

Claims (20)

1. An activity system, comprising:
a supply unit, the supply unit including a body having an outlet port and a valve proximate to the outlet port, the valve being disposable in an opened position and a closed position, the supply unit being configured to supply a fluid to the outlet port; and
an activity unit, the activity unit including a body with an inlet port and a valve proximate to the inlet port, the valve of the activity unit being disposable in an opened position and a closed position, and the engagement of the valve of the activity unit with the valve of the supply unit causes the valve of the supply unit to move from its closed position to an open position, thereby permitting fluid to flow from the supply unit into the activity unit.
2. The activity system of claim 1, wherein the valve of the supply unit includes a seat and a valve body movable relative to and configured to engage the seat, the valve of the activity unit includes a seat and a valve body, and the valve body of the activity unit is configured to engage the valve body of the supply unit to move the valve body of the supply unit from its closed position to its opened position.
3. The activity system of claim 2, wherein the valve body of the supply unit engages the seat of the supply unit when the activity unit is spaced apart from the supply unit.
4. The activity system of claim 2, wherein the valve body of the activity unit is normally biased to its closed position.
5. The activity system of claim 2, wherein the valve body of the activity unit engages the valve body of the supply unit when the activity unit engages the supply unit.
6. The activity system of claim 2, wherein engagement of the valve body of the activity unit and the valve body of the supply unit causes each of the valve bodies to move from its closed position to its opened position.
7. The activity system of claim 6, wherein disengagement of the valve body of the activity unit from the valve body of the supply unit results in each of the valve bodies moving from its opened position to its closed position.
8. The activity system of claim 1, wherein the activity unit is a bucket that has a body that defines a receptacle in which a fluid can be disposed, the body of the activity unit includes a lower portion, the inlet port being formed in the lower portion, the valve of the activity unit includes a valve body movable relative to the inlet port, the valve body of the activity unit being normally disposed in a closed position.
9. The activity system of claim 1, wherein the valve of the supply unit is moved to its closed position by the presence of fluid in the supply unit.
10. The activity system of claim 1, wherein the supply unit includes a biasing mechanism configured to bias the valve of the supply unit into its closed position in which the valve body of the supply unit engages the seat of the supply unit.
11. The activity system of claim 1, wherein the activity unit includes a biasing mechanism configured to bias the valve of the activity unit into its closed position.
12. The activity system of claim 1, wherein the portion of the valve body of the supply unit that is contacted by the activity unit is disposed within the valve of the supply unit.
13. A method of using a activity system, the activity system including a supply unit and an activity unit, the supply unit including an outlet port and a valve body movable relative to the outlet port, the valve body having an opened position and a closed position, the activity unit including an inlet port and a valve body movable relative to the inlet port, the valve body of the activity unit having an opened position and a closed position, the method comprising:
disposing the activity unit proximate to the supply unit;
aligning the inlet port with the outlet port; and
engaging the activity unit with the valve body of the supply unit to open the outlet port and allow a fluid to flow therethrough.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein engaging the activity unit with the valve body of the supply unit includes moving the valve body of the supply unit from its closed position to its opened position.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein engaging the activity unit with the valve body of the supply unit includes activating the valve body of the activity unit.
16. The method of claim 15, wherein engagement of the valve body of the activity unit with the valve body of the supply unit causes the valve body of the activity unit to move from its closed position to its opened position.
17. The method of claim 16, further comprising:
disengaging the activity unit from the valve body of the supply unit, and thereby allowing the valve body of the supply unit to return to its closed position relative to the outlet port.
18. An activity system, comprising:
a supply unit, the supply unit including a body having an outlet port and a valve body proximate to the outlet port, the valve body being disposable in an opened position and a closed position, the valve body being disposed in its closed position when fluid is supplied to the supply unit, the supply unit being configured to supply a fluid to the outlet port; and
an activity unit, the activity unit including a body with an inlet port, the activity unit being configured to engage the valve body of the supply unit to cause the valve body to move from its closed position to its opened position, thereby permitting fluid to flow from the supply unit into the activity unit.
19. The activity system of claim 18, wherein the activity unit includes a locking mechanism coupled to the activity unit, the locking mechanism being operable to releasably couple the activity unit to the supply unit.
20. The activity system of claim 19, wherein the locking mechanism includes an engaging portion, the engaging portion being configured to move relative to the activity unit to decouple the activity unit from the supply unit.
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US10375546B2 (en) * 2012-04-05 2019-08-06 Assurant, Inc. System, method, apparatus, and computer program product for providing mobile device support services
US9546088B2 (en) * 2013-06-12 2017-01-17 Stephan Krüger Arrangement for filling watering cans
US20140366984A1 (en) * 2013-06-12 2014-12-18 Stephan Kruger Arrangement for filling watering cans
GB2526775A (en) * 2014-04-08 2015-12-09 Colin Charles Thompson Apparatus for filling a watering can, and methods of filling watering cans

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