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Student-Powered Rec Center

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Abstract[edit]

Student-Powered Rec Center Project is to determine the amount of electricity that could be produced at the Student Rec Center at Humboldt State University using the existing Cardio-vascular stationary machines. The second part of the experiment was to compare the costs and amount of electricity that could potentially be produced at the SRC to the Team Dynamo, a stationary bicycle team that was produced by Mike Taggett of Henry Works, Inc.

Introduction[edit]

There is energy being wasted on campus that could potentially be used to offset some of HSU’s energy demands. At the Student Recreation Center students, staff and faculty members use the various types of cardiovascular work-out machines throughout the day and in the process they produce kinetic energy that could be utilized as electricity.

Project Requirements[edit]

Dick Hansis (2008) states that the mission of the course is to “learn environmental problem-solving through engagement in real-world situations by applying knowledge gained in other courses as well as new skills learned in this course.” Melissa Buehler and Dana Martin decided to create electricity at the Student Rec Center (SRC) using cardio-vascular machines that students, faculty and staff already use in order to meet their daily exercise needs.

In order to determine the best way to create electricity, an experiment was designed that determine the potential amount of electricity that could be produced by the existing equipment already installed at the SRC to the “Team Dynamo” which is a set of bikes hooked up to a re-generator that sends electricity back into the existing energy grid from the motion of the bike pedals. The amount of potential energy was compared between the two and the costs. Also, the aesthetics were taken into account and the set up process was considered in the final decision of the best way to produce electricity.

Design[edit]

1. The first step was to determine the amount of electricity that could be produced by the existing equipment. Melissa Buehler used each type of equipment at the SRC and recorded that amount of power produced, the energy spent and the time, which was measured by the cardiovascular machines. It was hoped to be determine the amount of human energy spent in order to create electrical energy.

2. The average amount of power produced by the machines was calculated.

3. The efficiency of human energy was determined by dividing the amount of energy produced by the amount of energy spent by the user.

4. The average amount of uses during the academic school year was determined. This was done by passing out surveys at the SRC.

5. The total amount of energy that could be produced by the machines was determined by taking the average amount of power created by the equipment and multiplying with the average amount of time a user spends on the equipment over an academic year time frame.

6. A comparison to the total potential amount of energy created by the existing bikes to the Team Dynamo was needed to be done. The minimum and maximum amount of power that could be created by the team of bikes was used with the average amount of time spent by a user on the equipment in order to determine the energy producing capabilities.

7. Next a comparison between the cost and energy production of retrofitting the existing bikes to the costs of the Team Dynamo was compared.

Discussion[edit]

Over the process, several Phone interviews were done between Melissa Buehler and Mike Taggett, the creator of the Team Dynamo. Mike Taggett revealed the amount of power that could be produced by the team, the price of the set and shipping of the equipment was estimated. Mike also gave the efficiency of the Team Dynamo and retrofitting existing equipment.

Several interviews between Melissa Buehler and Dave Nakamura, the director of the SRC, were done. Information on the amount electricity the SRC consumes daily was estimated by him. He also gave necessary information on the number of users on the day of the survey and over the full academic school year was given by him.

I assumed that the users of the SRC would switch their work out to the Team Dynamo if it were installed.

The cost of retro-fitting the existing bikes was done by Dana Martin using resources on the web.

Lonnie Grafman helped answer Melissa Buehler and Dana Martin’s questions during the experiment and also reviewed the excel sheet on October 27, 2008. (But he is by no way accountable for any information in the experiment)

Conclusions[edit]

Equipment Cost Total Energy (kWh/AY) % of SRC electricity consumption offset
Retro Fit all Cardio Machines $8,725 1,638 1%
Team Dynamo (High End Energy Production $7,900 1,815 1%
Team Dynamo (Low End Energy Production) $7,900 1,296 1%
2 Team Dynamos (average) $15,800 3,111 2%
3 Team Dynamos (average) $23,700 4,666 3%
4 Team Dynamos (average) $31,600 6,222 4%
5 Team Dynamos (average) $39,500 7,777 5%

It was found that 1% of the energy needs of the SRC could be produced by the exercise bikes at the SRC. Team Dynamo cost less than retrofitting the existing bikes, and was aesthetically more pleasing, we determine the best way to create energy was by purchasing the team dynamo. With each set of Team Dynamo’s that is installed, 1% more electricity could be produced.

The determining factor was the efficiency of the regenerator. The amount of energy that can be produced at the SRC depends on the user, but it's the efficiency of the Team Dynamo that makes it possible for it to create more electricity than retrofitting the existing bikes.

BackGround Information[edit]

Pedal power is now safer and more readily available for transportation purposes than ever. Pedal power can also be a great tool for small scale projects that require electricity. A great place to learn more about these types of projects is at Humboldt State University’s Campus Center for Appropriate Technology (CCAT), which displays several innovative student produced projects. Various projects can be found at their location such as a pedal powered TV/VCR, table saw, sewing machine, laptop, belt sander, drill press, electric and mechanical blender, and a grinder. Not only should it be considered for transportation and small scale projects, but it also has potential for electricity generation that can be hooked up to an electrical grid.


All the pedal power successes of CCAT could not have been made possible without Bart Orlando. He has been a CCAT volunteer since 1993, working with engineer students on pedal power projects. Bart Orlando’s dream of converting human health spas into “Human Power Plants” has fueled his research and participation with CCAT for the past decade and half. He has been directly involved with creating pedal powered blenders, televisions and washing machines, along with many others. These designs are being implemented worldwide. The most recent was a pedal powered washing machine in Parras, Mexico. One of Orlando’s greatest successes was the Human Energy Converter (the H.E.C.) which is a set of fourteen bikes hooked up to a battery which has been used to power concerts, such as Bob Weir, Big Brother and the holding company, Richie Havens and Merle Saunders (Orlando).


Pedal Power is one of the most efficient ways of converting energy to electricity. James B. Spicer (1999), a researcher from John Hopkins University, found that the chain drive on a road bike is 98.6% efficient. Compare this to the electrical grid the United States is current, which is 33% (DOE). The energy that is created for the grid is highly inefficient and should be replaced with a better method.


As for pedal power, batteries have been used in the past to store the energy from pedal power projects such as the H.E.C. or they have been directly connected to equipment that consumes the electricity. There is energy loss with every conversion of energy. First, energy needs to go from the bike to the generator using a flywheel, a belt and a pulley. Once the energy goes to the generator, it is stored in a battery. Energy from pedal power is in the form of direct current (DC) and the energy that we use from the grid, is in alternate current (AC). In order to convert the DC to AC, an inverter is needed and then the device you want to run off the energy is plugged into the inverter. With each component of pedal power system, energy is lost. In order to increase the efficiency, it would make the most sense to get rid of the generator, batteries and inverter. Instead of using a generator for the energy, a regenerator can be used which can send energy directly back into the grid, just by simply plugging it in. Mike Taggett, of Henry Works, Inc., has created a regenerator that does just this.


Obesity in the United States has recently become an epidemic within the past couple decades. The American Heart Society found that today 65% of people over the age of 20 living in the United States are considered overweight or obese and about 16% of all kids are overweight (A Nation at Risk). The cure for obesity begins with eating right and getting exercise. Over 15 years ago, Bart Orlando dreamed of the day that people would be paid to work out, if only this dream had caught on, people would be more inclined to work out at a health spa and obesity rates may not be as high today.

Humboldt State University Energy Usage HSU buys power from Constellation New Energy (CNE) since 1996. Their fuel mix for California is 47% coal, 24% biomass, 6% solar, 11% geothermal, 12% hydropower, with a total of 53% renewable sources and 47% from coal (New Energy website.) Since nearly half of HSU's energy comes from coal power there is a great need for energy conservation and efficiency. Retrofitting the cardiovascular equipment in the SRC would be a good way to harness clean energy that is being generated and essentially wasted every day.

Student Recreation Center Logistics The purpose of the SRC is to provide recreational opportunities for HSU’s campus community. This includes students, staff, alumni and professors. The facilities consist of a climbing wall, a fitness center and an indoor field space. The fitness center consists of cardiovascular exercise equipment and weight training. There are over thirty cardiovascular exercise machines: 5 recumbent bikes, 7 upright bikes, 5 Stairmasters, 5 treadmills, 2 rowing machines and 10 elliptical trainers. The SRC is opened 6am to 10pm Monday thru Thursday, 6am to 8pm on Friday and noon to 6pm on Saturday to Sunday. This is a hundred and eight hours of operation each week where energy can be created. Last school year, the SRC had about 89,000 visits.

In order for the SRC to run, Dave Nakamura (October 18, 2008), the director of University Center, says it consumes roughly 650 kWh each month A survey was done by Melissa Buehler (October 13, 2008), and the results show that about 30,000 visitors, last year, used the machines for .89 hours per visit (survey results). If each visitor produced about 100watts of power when they worked out, then 3000 kilowatt hours could be produced over the school year without factoring in efficiency (calculation done by Melissa Buehler).

Team Dynamo and the FireWheel Inter Grid System Mike Taggett, the Director of Henry Works, created a set of exercise bikes called the Team Dynamo. This piece of equipment includes four exercise bikes connected to produce anywhere from 100-400 watts depending on how many people are exercising and how fit the people are. The Team Dynamo has been implemented in Portland, Oregon at a gym called the MicroGym. The MicroGym and the Team Dynamo have been recognized throughout the country for highly innovative and green design. Articles can be found in several newspapers including the New York Times. Mike Tagget is also the creator of the FireWheel Inter Grid System which is a regenerator that sends electricity into the grid simply by plugging it into an outlet. This piece of equipment has 70% efficiency, which is higher than the 50% efficiency that most pedal power bikes have (Interview with Mike Taggett October 16, 2008).

People Involved Many people will need to be used as resources for this project. Humboldt State University has a wealth of resources in different areas that could be useful. The first person to be involved with the project is Dave Nakamura, Direct of the University Center. Nakamura is in charge of the Student Rec Center, Center of Activities and the Community pool. Nakamura has the information on energy consumption and the amount of visitors the SRC has each year. Nakamura will have the final decision of whether or not the electricity producing bikes will be installed at the gym or not. Tall Chief Commet, the Sustainability Coordinator, will be our direct contact for the Humboldt Energy Independence Fund (HEIF) grant proposal. Tall Chief Commet is another decider in the installation of the new bikes. Lonny Grafman is an Engineering Professor at Humboldt State University. He will help with weighing the alternatives. Ann Alter, professor, will help with proof reading of the grant proposal. Melissa Buehler had her as a grantwriting professor and will be a valuable resource for the grant application process. CCAT has agreed to be our partner in this project. They will mainly be involved with the project once it is implemented. They also have a wealth of information about pedal power on their website and at their house. Mike Taggett is the creator of the Team Dynamo. He will be a reliable resource all throughout the project’s development stage and installation stage. He will be able to provide information about the Team Dynamo and its parts. He will also come to Humboldt State University to install the equipment, and train athletic employees and CCAT volunteers who will put on a workshop for the student body and community.