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Alexander Wilke

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Can playground equipment be rigged up to generators/ dynamos to harvest energy that a school could then use?

Imagine a roundabout in a school playground that gets played on for about two hours a day. Underneath the centre could there be a dynamo gathering the electricity and storing it? It could be used to power night lights, or other temporary lighting (such as toilets, hallways etc). Dynamos could be attached to swings too. We could even design playground equipment for this purpose where children have to lift, pull, turn, spin, rotate objects or handles during play.

I'm calling it "Active Electricity". Cheesy tag line; "Harnessing the Energy of Youth"!

Is this a feasible idea? Does anyone want to help make it a reality? What challenges would there be to this being successful?

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    Jan 22 2012: There was a technology on show last year at an invention expo that powered a a light system from people walking across a special floor that transfered the rocking movements into energy.
    Another invention I came across was a t-shirt panel that generated electricity by sound pressure hitting it.
    These would produce more electricity if they were to be implemented (seeing as school playgrounds are filled both with loud noises and 100's of people walking around).

    Practically everything can be manipulated to harness energy, its just a case of being inventive enough to create something which will utilize it.
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      Jan 23 2012: My reply to Jay Robinson (above) may interest you:

      I love the idea of electric shoes! Imagine putting the floor Xavier Belvemont mentions into a shopping mall to make it self sufficient? Or outside a sports stadium to power the flood lights? Or in the pedestrian tunnels on the underground (subway) to power the station lights? Or...
  • Feb 19 2012: I like your way of thinking!

    My concern of course would be understanding the gross environmental impact of each process. Little to no electrical devices are designed in wholesome accordance to environmental protection. They may work like magic, but are far from it. All it takes is to consider the mining and refining process, not to mention the exhaustive use of water and energy to create modern electronics:
    http://stuff.mit.edu/afs/athena/course/2/2.813/OldFiles/www/readings/WilliamsMicrochip.pdf

    Further, the whole PlayPump idea sounds great in theory, but perhaps is only that:
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/nov/24/africa-charity-water-pumps-roundabouts

    Now, this by no means is meant to be a downer post - just looking to re-shift the focus of an excellent initiative. My counter-question would read something like,

    Considering the huge amount of human labour available on the planet, how might we be able to use simple mechanical processes to convert humans' potential kinetic energy into useful functions (i.e. twenty stationary bicycles connected to the well-meaning PlayPump's axle)?
  • Feb 4 2012: This idea sounds like an adaptation of the Playpumps already being used in villages. (See link for a photo: http://www.worldchanging.com/archives/000446.html). Why couldn't the same design be connected to an dynamo instead of a water pump? I believe it is already being applied in gyms as well. I'd LOVE to convert my school's whole playground into these sorts of gadgets. Even if they didn't generate an enormous amount of energy, it would still be wonderful.
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    Jan 23 2012: Wow, what a great idea! That would be SO cool. You know, I think I'll build it into some plans I'm already working up. Thanks!
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    Jan 23 2012: Its people that think like this that are crucial to this world :-)

    At any point, you would have to assess the Net Gain.If the net gain is at all positive, then I belive it would be worth doing. When I say this I mean in a Life Cycle sense.

    It's interesting to note that in some cheaper production plants, the energy that goes into producing a solar panel is in excess of the power that panel can produce and supply in its life time (Many factors cause this).That is an example of a Net Loss. The answer is to improve both the production technology and the efficiency of the unit..so the net gain from both ends is incresed.
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      Jan 23 2012: Thanks for the compliment, much appreciated :-)

      This is an angle I hadn't considered. I instantly thought about children being the on site constructors. They could learn electrical skills, engineering skills and construction skills. This would be especially useful for teenagers looking to do more practical qualifications. I wonder if Marcin Jakubowski's construction kit could do all the construction work necessary? They in turn could be made first!

      I'm glad you gave me a perspective I hadn't considered. Production is as important as utilisation.
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    Jan 23 2012: That is such a neat idea and I think it could be expanded to include anything that is moved by human power. Imagine shoes that used the pressure of the person's walk to generate power for their music device? Each time a cupboard or door is opened, or water runs through a faucet, it could generate a little bit of electricity. It's all just a question of efficiency of the system, which is a matter of time as research into the field gets more and more subtle. I can see all of this happening at some point.
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      Jan 23 2012: I love the idea of electric shoes! Imagine putting the floor Xavier Belvemont mentions (comment below) into a shopping mall to make it self sufficient? Or outside a sports stadium to power the light? Or in the pedestrian tunnels on the underground (subway) to power the station lights? Or...
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        Jan 23 2012: we could literally dance our way to a sustainable future
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    Jan 22 2012: If I owned a gym, I'd have already devised a way to plug into every stairmaster and stationary bike so as not to have a single electric bill and perhaps even to power my entire block.
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      Jan 23 2012: Sounds like you need to take ownership of a gym! I think there is a slight problem with some of the machines you mention using a lot of electricity while in use (for tv screens, monitoring etc). You could go for a "no frills" eco gym where machines create electricity rather than use it. No screens, just simple speedometers like the one I had on my bike as a kid! If you sold your electricity for enough profit, membership could be free!

      Let me know when it's open, I'll come down for a run!