Engineer and computer science students from Northern Arizona University (NAU), the Wind Powering American: Arizona Wind for Schools program, along with students from NAU’s triathlon and cycling teams came together to design an interactive method to charge an electronic device-ride a bike and charge your phone was the end result.
In spring 2012, the students received $2,900 from the NAU Green Fund to design and build the Eco-Pedaler, a bicycle-powered charging station for electronic devices such as cell phones. The bike generates electricity as the user pedals, and the more the user pedals, the more energy that is produced. The system is paired with educational information about traditional energy sources and the importance of using renewable energy. With the Eco-Pedaler, users can see how much energy they are producing on the bike versus the amount of energy use their phone or other devices requires.
How did this bike project start? Since 2010, Flagstaff teacher Jeff Hines and the Wind for Schools program, have been working on the Eco-Pedaler project with the goal of teaching K-12 students about energy, power, and electricity. Hines inspired students and teachers to pursue using bicycle generators for classroom use. For the project they purchased a double-bike generator system from NAU student, Matt Petney, which included a battery for energy storage, an inverter, and an outlet for 120-volt devices. Matt ended up joining the team in 2011 to provide technical guidance and help build bike generators and bike blenders. Since then, others have joined the team to reach out to local schools to teach kids about energy. These manually powered bikes are excellent tools to demonstrate in a physical, hands-on manner the concepts of energy and energy conversion.
For NAU, Marilla Lamb wrote a grant request to the NAU Green Fund to build a bike that powers mobile devices. The project was funded and a team of students designed and built the bike during 2012. “Currently, a team of electrical and mechanical engineering students are working on the second iteration of the charging station, to improve its usability and versatility. The Eco-Pedaler is installed on the second floor of the Engineering Building on the NAU campus.” According to the Institute for Sustainable Energy at NAU.
So how much energy does it take to power a light bulb or charge your phone? Pedal your way to finding out! Contact Arizona Wind for Schools if you would like a bike generator at your child’s school!
Photo courtesy of Christin Woodward