CHILDREN'S PEDAL GENERATORS
These started off as a way to occupy children who wanted to help run our pedal powered stages. The amount of power they produced wasn’t all that significant so I made some directly driven applications like car boot sale piano keyboards and computer games to run from them. They quickly became popular as an attraction in their own right.
Over many years we've done projects at events including the old Kingston and Maidstone Green Fairs, and festivals including WOMAD, Glastonbury, Green Gathering, Northern Green Gathering and Devon County Show, as well as many smaller village events and community Arts festivals such as Green Scythe Fair and West Oxford Community Fun Day.
Our Children's Pedal Generators with Nintendo games, bubble machine and inflatable monsters are always popular. Multi day events give more opportunity for larger projects such as workshops for making LED windmills and pedal power devices.
FESTIVALS AND GREEN FAIRS
We have generators in all sizes from toddler to pre-teen, using various motors from car radiator fans and computer printers. Displays have a large voltmeter and a line of lamps which light up progressively the harder they pedal. Applications include music keyboards and Nintendo Gameboys with no battery storage so that they shut down as soon as pedalling stops. More visual stuff includes inflatable binliner and carrier bag monsters five or six metres tall powered by old computer cooling fans stuck in buckets, and an attraction for indoor events is a pedal powered plasma globe.
All the applications are connected using standard colour coded plugs; the children soon learn to connect them up themselves which is quite safe. No fuses are needed as the generators can't produce enough current to burn out wires. The voltage is regulated to just over 12 Volts which is too low to give a shock. The moving parts are guarded, the generators are supervised at all times and put away when out of use.
For very tight situations we can do a 'vehicle-less' setup using our pedestrian trailer as transport from nearby parking, if there is more room we can provide our full stall with motor caravan at the back, and a covered stall table at the front. Apart from up to seven pedal generators, the full setup can include solar and wind power demonstrations, tools and repair facilities, junk sculptures, illuminated lantern towers and other site decor. The full setup has a minimum width of 6 Metres (the length of the van) and a depth of from 5 to 8 Metres.
Site layout diagrams in pdf with dimensions can be downloaded from the buttons below.
One of the best (and sometimes the most challenging) places to promote energy understanding is on the street. It's something we're quite used to, having started making small low voltage PA equipment for street performance over 20 years ago. People on modern shopping streets are mainly intent on stuff like shopping, meeting their friends or grabbing a sandwich before rushing back to work. It's not easy getting them to queue up for free low energy light bulbs or sign a petition. On the other hand you get to connect with people who wouldn't have otherwise bothered to think about environmental awareness, so it's definitely worth a go.
Instant effect stuff like our pedal powered inflatable binliner monsters and iPod Booster are good for grabbing people's attention. We've had a lot of success with the pedal powered mp3 Booster; so many people have some sort of mp3 device, and being able to instantly broadcast 30 or 40 Watts of the contents by direct pedal power is quite impressive. Not only that but it turns the self centred idea of the iPod inside out - suddenly everyone can hear what was just inside one person's head. It's been particularly good with groups of teenagers who are often carrying copies of their own original hip-hop or other home-made music in their mp3's or phones. Sometimes they've only mixed it the night before and relish the opportunity to play it out in public on a system with good volume and bass response.
Our latest development of this idea is a highly portable pedal powered mp3 DJ system ideal for teen projects.
The most unpleasant and difficult aspect of setting up equipment on the street is getting it there. Obviously a vehicle has to be used, but driving one into a pedestrian area is stressful for the driver and not at all good for the pedestrians. I've worked out an ideal solution to this. Three pedal generators and various handcrank devices and displays can be carried up to a mile or so on our pedestrian trailer which dismantles on arrival to form a small table. That way a small car can be put in the nearest parking area; the trailer carries the whole contents of the car in one go. It will go through standard width doorways and fits into lifts in multi storey car parks; it's all made out of recycled parts and provides a practical demonstration of moving a lot of stuff without a motor vehicle.
The idea worked so well we acquired a vehicle with a wheelchair ramp so the trailer can be rolled straight in or out fully loaded.
I've been making things out of discarded electronics stuff and general scrap materials for over fifty years. In some ways, modern junk is less adaptable than the old stuff was but there's more of it being thrown away than there ever has been and the quality of some bits like miniature stepper motors is amazing. Children's pedal generators and hub disc twirly things are actually fairly easy to make once you realise you can do it.
To help other people get started, I can facilitate workshops on recycling electronics including dismantling things like old computer printers and faxes with guidance on which parts are useful and interesting, or making LED windmills or other small generating devices from pre prepared kits. At festivals and other outdoor Green events, we use solar power for the soldering iron and occasional power drill. Everything else is done with hand tools.