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
Curious about Human Power? Need some exercise? Trying to lose weight? Looking for a zero-carbon workout? Need inspiration? Researching technical information? Expensive electricity and gasoline making you nuts? You have come to the right place.
Every morning, I ride my Pedal Generator to generate electricity.
The Pedal Generator I built and ride charges batteries, that run
an inverter to produce 110v AC, that powers LED lights, the monitor
on my computer, my cell phones, and charges my Roomba, my eGo Electric
Moped, as well as many other battery-powered things.
All Powered by Me.
It is the most inspiring workout you can imagine, and it
saves me money!
Do It Yourself Plans
Movies and Specs
Appliance Power Stats
My Pedal Power History: 35 Years Researching the Power of Human Energy
The 12 Volt DC Pedal Generator you see on this site is a completely original
invention. I built the first version of the 12v Pedal Generator in 1976.
As an improvement over rudimentary bicycle generator and bicycle dynamo
designs, I focused on efficiency and versatility.
While a 12v bike generator is an alternative to my design, pedaling will
be less efficient,
and powering non-electric equipment may be difficult.
A unique feature in my design was a 36″ particle board disk with a groove
routed in the edge that served as the
flywheel and crankshaft
for the permanent magnet 36 volt DC motor
seen at the upper right edge of the device. A small-pitch chain provided the power
transfer system. The groove around the outer edge was lined with
“rim strips” – thin rubber straps that prevented the chain from
slipping and digging into the particle board. They are standard
bicycle parts. The motor was obtained around 1980 from Northern Hydraulic,
now known as
Northern Tool and Equipment Company.
It is a General Electric Permanent Magnet Motor, model 5BPA34NAA44, a very nice
heavy-duty, ball bearing unit. I paid USD $29 for it if I remember
correctly, and I still have it.
The bottom frame of the Pedal Generator was welded steel plate and
channel, the crankset was an American Schwinn ball bearing set,
a cotterless crank conversion spindle, alloy cranks and inexpensive pedals
with toe clips.
The crankset had a steel chainwheel on it. I drilled some larger
holes in the chainwheel and bolted the particle board disk to it. It was
strong enough (fine Schwinn steel!) to hold the weight of the particle
board disk and run true. I routed an oblong hole through the particle
board disk for the “arm” of the crankset.
The seatpost and
The intention of this project is to build a straight forward human powered generator from a used bicycle and to use it to power light bulbs, blenders, cell phones, laptops, and other small appliances. This project will help one develop engineering skills while learning about a clean way of generating electricity.
The project was created as part of Infrastructure Academy’s environmental technology curriculum for high school students, so it is intended to be both achievable and affordable.
Before continuing with the actual bicycle generator, one should understand how it works, and the components that make it up. View the PowerPoint presentation before moving on to the next step.
– 2″ X 4″ Wood
– Wood screws or nails
– Hammer or Screwdriver
– Tape Measure
– Motor (12-V or higher)
– Perforated plumbers steel
(if motor does not have mounting bracket)
Note: The bicycle generator could be accomplished by skipping steps 5, 6, 7, and 8, to save money, but connecting anything other than a halogen lamp directly to the motor is not recommended due to the varying voltages.
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