Wind for Schools worked with several teachers who expressed interest in using bicycle generators to teach their students some fundamental concepts of energy and basic mechanical, engineering, and electrical principles. With this project we worked with K-12 and college students to organize hands-on design and construction of bike generators. We then used the bike generators in the classroom for fun demonstrations which increased students’ understanding and awareness of energy topics.
History of the project
In 2010, Jeff Hines, a local Flagstaff teacher who also served as the first WindSenator in Arizona, inspired us to pursue bicycle generators for use in K-12 classrooms. Shortly after, we learned of an NAU student, Matthew Petney, who had built a double-bike generator, which included a battery for energy storage and an inverter and outlet so normal 120-volt devices could be plugged into it. We purchased the system from Matt and shared it with several interested teachers and classes as an educational tool. Matt joined our team in fall 2011 to provide more technical guidance to our staff and our teacher partners in building bike generators, bike blenders, and more.
In fall 2011 and spring 2012, Marilla Lamb and Matthew Petney visited two of our partner schools (Flagstaff Junior Academy and Orme School) to build bike blenders and a bike generator with middle and high school students. The students were presented with the design challenge, as well as tools and materials, and worked with our staff to design and build the bikes. These bikes were used at several school events, and in the classroom the following year as a teaching tool.
In 2011, Marilla Lamb wrote a grant to NAU’s Green Fund to fund a bicycle-powered charging station (The Eco-Pedaler), complete with energy meters so students can see the energy they produce and the energy they use, and with transparent coverings so all components are visible. The project was funded and a team of students designed and built the bike during 2012. The completed charging station can be seen in NAU’s engineering building. Now, a team of senior electrical and mechanical engineering students are working on the second iteration of the charging station, which is also funded by NAU’s Green Fund to improve its usability and versatility.
Wind for Schools was awarded funding from the APS Leadership Grant program in 2012, and obtained nearly $5,000 to work with several teachers in Arizona at some of our partner schools to build bicycle generators either in their science classes or with their science clubs. Our team built these bike generators with students at Mount Elden Middle School, Coconino High School, STAR School, Williams High School, and Northland Preparatory Academy in Spring 2013. Several energy lessons accompany the bicycle generators that we built and worked with in K-12 classrooms.
Using the bike generator in your classroom
The bike generator is a great tool for explaining difficult concepts like energy, power, electricity, and energy conversions. When students use the bike generator, they get a physical, hands-on understanding of these