1st Student Smoothie
FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Project data
Authors Kelsey
Caroline Stoddard
Location Humboldt County, California
Status Prototyped
Cost USD 51.00
Instance of Bike blender
OKH Manifest Download

Students will have the opportunity to work with the McKinleyville High School (MHS) students and the Humboldt County Office of Education (HCOE) to design lectures tailored to appropriate technology. During the Spring 2017 semester Caroline Stoddard and Kelsey Summers will design a bike power project and corresponding educational curriculum to be delivered in McKinleyville, CA once per week. The intent is to design and construct a bicycle capable of producing electricity. The goal of the class is to provide students with strengths in hands on activities while working to serve the community. This pedal power project also has the potential to provide future curriculum ideas for bike power service learning projects.

Problem statement[edit | edit source]

The primary objective of this project is to develop a mechanical pedal power bike project capable of powering a blender. MHS students will participate in 50-minute lectures that will focus on the primary tenets of appropriate technology, prototyping, project design, mechanical bike blender construction building and testing. Introductory projects will include a t-shirt to tote bag and DIY notebooks. Depending on student needs, interests and time future projects could include edible garden design and/or papercrete stepping stones.

Literature Review[edit | edit source]

Creating energy from pedal power can be used as a demonstration of what harnessing the human potential can do. Throughout history, human power has been used to meet all sorts of needs. In the 1940's manual crank devices, including human-powered radio were common but the energy generated from leg-powered devices is much greater. Soon came the advent of bicycle pedal power parts, capable of generating up to 60 Watts of power.[1]

That cranking or pedaling motion serves as mechanical energy that is then converted into electrical energy.[2]Pedal power can be used to charge a battery or used directly to assist in agricultural processes, operate tools, power blenders, washing machines, devices, light bulbs; the possibilities are vast and can be tailored to fit different objectives and needs.

Pedal power is often divided into two categories, mechanical and electrical.

Electric Pedal Power[edit | edit source]

Electrical bike power harnesses the mechanical power of pedaling and converts it to electrical energy. Electrical bike design may lose some potential energy between conversion through the generator or alternator and even more so if used in conjunction with a battery.


These schematics can be used for any bike by removing the back wheel and mounting the frame.[3]

Mechanic Pedal Power[edit | edit source]

Mechanical bikes use the power of the cranking motion to directly operate some mechanism.

Parts[edit | edit source]

First things first, you need a bike. Many people recommend using an exercise bike since it solves any bike stabilization issues, others have used training stands, but creating a custom frame or using cinder blocks can also accomplish mounting the bike.

There are two major modes of power transmission for bicycle attachments, chain drive and friction drive. These two drives can be used to meet the power requirements of most pedal power attachments.

Chain drives should be paired with low-speed devices. Chain drives are more efficient; a study at Johns Hopkins found efficiency rates from 81 % to as high as 96.8 %.[4] Chain drives are often used most because of this, however can be more costly and less accessible.

Belt drives and roller drives are the two main types of friction drives. Belt drives, can be fashioned out of recycled rubber, but eventually stretching is bound to occur especially in humid conditions.[5] A pulley is the simple machine that will generate the mechanical energy. A small pulley on a generator will spin faster than a large one. The type of drive shaft the pulley will be connected to; chain or friction drive will determine the size of the pulley.[6]

A generator or alternator is used to create electrical energy. A permanent magnet direct current (DC) motor is typical for pedal power devices. Internal magnets create a magnetic field; generators with ratings of 500 to 1000 rpm are recommended. Using a car alternator is an option but internal electromagnets are capable of running at thousands of rpms, this pace may be too fast for pedal power needs.[7]

A diode is a circuit element that allows electrical current to run in one direction and not the other.[8]

A fuse protects the equipment. When too much current passes through a fuse it pops, also known as an open circuit. The break stops the surge from continuing and protects your electrical system.[9]

A battery is a container of one or more cells that converts chemical energy into electricity that is used as a source of power.

An inverter is essentially a portable electrical outlet that changes direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). The input voltage, output voltage and frequency, and overall power handling depend on the design of the specific device or circuitry.[10]

A Flywheel is a heavy revolving wheel in a machine that stores the energy of your pedaling. This increases the machine's momentum and increases the available power. A heavy wheel with good bearings is recommended.[11]

Lever Arms can be used to increase power output. A design that has been used for past pedal power projects by Maurice Houbracken

Bike Sprocket/Elliptical Sprocket: "A disc with teeth on its circumference for driving a chain, a general term that applies both to chain rings and to freewheel cogs."[12] This is what the bike chain wraps around, sprockets are measured by the number of teeth (pitch) and width. An elliptical sprocket can also increase energy output by using elliptical opposed to circular shaped sprockets.[13]

Teaching bike power[edit | edit source]

Pedal power has been used as an educational tool to teach students the basics of energy and power. Exercises can be tailored to highlight mechanics or electricity function, energy efficiency, or environmental concerns. Bike power also gives rise to appropriate technology (AT) and utilizing human power to meet our needs. AT is an important topic to teach youth because it incorporates hands on learning, simple design, maintenance, low cost and local knowledge base. AT uses local resources to solve problems and provide services for people.[14]

Client Criteria[edit | edit source]

We are waiting for administrative approval at the Mckinleyville school and a meeting with the teachers from the TLC classroom until we establish project criteria. While planning this project our objective is to remain mindful of the students individual grade levels, since the classroom is a mix of middle schoolers with varying skills and interests. Criteria and constraints are based on information provided by MHS teachers and students.

Criteria Constraints Weight
Educational value energy basics 9
Low skill user friendly 7
Size kid friendly 5
Movability in and out of classroom 3
Parts recycled/locally sourced 6
Reliable function when needed 9
Low Cost fit within budget 6

System Examples[edit | edit source]

CCAT has contributed plenty to pedal power innovations. Some designs include bike power blenders, tools, and larger scale projects like the Mobile Energy Operations Wagon (MEOW). Foodshare.net offers great instructions for creating a bike power blender tailored to meet educational objectives.[15] Maya Pedal offers great examples of how bike power can generate real solutions. Bicimaquinas have been designed to pump water, mill grains, shell nuts and de-pulp coffee. Fact sheets, instructions and sketch-up models are available for many of the designs.[16]

Prototyping[edit | edit source]

K.Summers Prototype.jpg

Kelsey Summers Cardboard Prototype One. ENGR305 Spring 2017.

Lilly Creating Prototype.jpg

One of the students, Lilly Meyers, is creating a prototype on her personal computer. Mckinleyville High School Spring 2017.

Lilly Meyers Bike Blender.png

Lilly Meyers Prototype. Mckinleyville High School Spring 2017.

Lilly Meyers Prototype Bike.png

Lilly Meyers Prototype. Mckinleyville High School Spring 2017.

Construction[edit | edit source]

Brainstorm w Students.jpg

Bike power class! Teaching the students about AT and a brainstorming session on how we could power the blender.

Prototype Lesson Plan.jpg

Bike power class lesson plan on prototyping. Students cut out all pieces and glue on a paper together to create a bike blender machine.

Prototype Drawing KTS.jpg

This is the original drawing that was cut into pieces for the prototype lesson plan with the students seen above.

Choose a Bike Frame.JPG

Choose a bike frame to meet your needs for the blender project. You can even make one for children with a small bike!

Wood Base for Blender.jpg

This is the wood panel used to connect the base of the blender to the bike rack over the rear tire.

Aligning the Wheel.JPG

Kelsey Summers is aligning the blender base with the wood panel and finding the right position for the rotating rod.

Bike Chain Mending.JPG

Opps! The chain that we have is too long! Kelsey Summers cut the chain down to size and connected it back together by using one of the excess rivets (from the chain links removed).

Inside Blender Base.jpg

Inside of the blender base. This opening is where the threaded rod will come through. The rod will be reinforced to keep it from moving and becoming offset.


A fender washer was added to the opening so the threaded rod can fit snug and not move around.

Fender Washer w Pencil.jpg

When gluing the fender washer to the opening, a colored pencil was used to hold the washer in place so it would dry in the correct position. The fender washer will rest against the PVC tube pictured below. The tube and washers create the mechanism to stabilize the rotating rod.

Blender Base PVC part.jpg

The PVC tube holds the rotating rod in place so it does not become offset.

Bike Blender Rotating Rod.jpg

Blender base with PVC tube and rotating rod with skate board wheel. The wheel sits flush against the bike tire. As the tire rotates it spins the skate board wheel that rotates the rod and blender blades.

Teaching bike power.JPG

This was the last class teaching bike power to the Mckinleyville High School students. Next we celebrated with smoothies!

1st Student Smoothie.JPG

The first smoothie with the students in class! Thank you to the teaching aids who brought the fruit in!

Finished Bike Blender.jpg

The bike is complete!

Tentative timeline[edit | edit source]

Project Tentative Timeline
Action Date Completed Date Actually Completed
Approved to work with school (TB test and fingerprinting) 02/20/17 02/17/17
Meet teacher- establish criteria 02/24/17 3/7/17
Curriculum design and structure 03/01/17 03/08/17
1st Bike power class in Mckinleyville- Teach student what AT is DIY tote bag/notebooks 03/03/17 03/23/17
Make a prototype or two 02/19/17 02/19/17
Project Budget 02/26/17 05/06/17
Purchase all materials for bike project 03/01/17 04/29/17
2nd Bike power class in Mckinleyville- intro to bike power and prototyping, brainstorming 03/10/17 03/30/17
3rd class- planning, parts, design discussed with the students 03/24/17 04/06/17
4th class- parts and begin building 03/31/12 03/31/12
5th class-parts and begin building 04/07/17 MHS spring break (04/20/17)
6th class- building and testing 04/14/2017 MHS class canceled (04/27/17)
7th class- testing, smoothie party, student/teacher feedback 04/21/17 05/04/17
Final write-up, evaluation of project success, lessons learned 05/07/17 05/09/17

Costs[edit | edit source]

Our costs accrued from this project will be minimal. A criteria of our project is to use all locally sourced and recycled goods. CCAT has been generous enough to donate about half of the required materials for our pedal power project. A big thank you! As we move forward with acquiring materials we may find better options and opportunities to ensure that our project uses the most easily accessible local resources.

Quantity Material Source Cost ($) Total ($)
1 Bike CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
1 Blender Thrift Store 8.00 8.00
1 Bicycle Rear Rack CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
1 Bicycle Stand for Stationary Blending ebay 30.00 30.00
1 Wood Board 12" x 5" CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
1 Metal Plate CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
2 Wood Screws CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
4 Bolts 1/4" x 2" Ace Hardware 0.80 3.20
4 Washer 1/4" Ace Hardware 0.20 0.80
4 Nut 1/4" Ace Hardware 0.25 1.00
1 Threaded Rod 3/8" Ace Hardware 8.00 8.00
1 Transmission Wheel CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
1 Old Bike tube CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
1 Wood Glue CCAT (donated) 0.00 0.00
Total Cost $51.00

Operation[edit | edit source]

Instructions[edit | edit source]

Instructions for use are pretty straight forward. Pedaling turns the back wheel which spins against the rotating rod attached to the skateboard wheel powering the blender. Make sure the blender is fully seated and that pedaling is consistent and slow.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Part of Engr305 Appropriate Technology
Keywords pedal power, bike, bike power
SDG SDG07 Affordable and clean energy
Authors Caroline Stoddard, Kelsey Summers
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Organizations Cal Poly Humboldt
Language English (en)
Translations Portuguese
Related 1 subpages, 7 pages link here
Impact 594 page views
Created January 22, 2017 by Caroline Stoddard
Modified January 29, 2024 by Felipe Schenone
  1. Starner/Paradiso http://www.cc.gatech.edu/~thad/p/.../human-generated-power-for-mobile-electronics.pdf
  2. Gilmore, A. "Human power: Energy recovery from recreational activity." Guelph Engineering Journal, Guelph 1 (2008): 8-16.
  3. Ajayi, Arinola B., and Frank N. Okafor. "Development of Improved Dual-Purpose Fitness Bike for Electricity Generation." Development 3.7 (2013).
  4. Spicer, J.B.; Richardson, C.J.K.; Ehrlich, M.J.; Bernstein, J.R. (2000). "On the Efficiency of Bicycle Chain Drives," from Human Power: Technical Journal of the International Human Powered Vehicle Association, Number 50, Spring 2000.
  5. Wu, Jodie. Bicycle-powered attachments: designing for developing countries. Diss. Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2009.
  6. CASL and EDC. Portable Pedal Power. A proposal for AAA and Burt Rutan, 2005.
  7. CASL and EDC. Portable Pedal Power. A proposal for AAA and Burt Rutan, 2005.
  8. https://www.khanacademy.org/science/electrical-engineering/ee-semiconductor-devices/ee-diode/v/ee-diode
  9. magnificentrevolution.org
  10. CASL and EDC. Portable Pedal Power. A proposal for AAA and Burt Rutan, 2005.
  11. Preuit Amy. How to set up a Pedal-Powered washing machine
  12. http://web.archive.org/web/20190403010204/http://www.engineering-dictionary.org:80/Sprocket
  13. CASL and EDC. Portable Pedal Power. A proposal for AAA and Burt Rutan, 2005.
  14. nau.edu/CEFNS/Engineering/Mechanical/.../Energy/_.../bike-generator-curriculum/
  15. foodshare.net/custom/uploads/2015/11/Bike_Blender_Guide_HIGH.pdf
  16. http://www.mayapedal.org/
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