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Human Powered Generator

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  • Human Powered Generator

    I've been spending the last few weeks helping my 13 year old nephew on a science fair project. It was a good opportunity to teach him basics of machining, welding, and woodworking. To make a long story short, here are the pictures of the finished product. It's a portable human powered generator. Because this is just a proof of concept, the portability hasn't been demonstrated. When the teeter-totter is rocked at about 1 steps/second, it products about 8W which isn't that bad. It's definitely enough to charge a cellphone and light up 144 LEDs very brightly.

    I have some videos of it in operation which I'll post on YouTube later.

    BTW, he won gold!





    Last edited by rotate; 04-20-2010, 12:43 AM.

  • #2


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    • #3
      Rotate that is a great project to learn from and I am sure your nephew learned a lot. The drive system looks good too. Looking at the pictures I assume the bridge rectifier is because the motor (generator) direction reverses as the teeter totter rocks back and forth and the bridge keeps tho output polarity constant. Is this right?
      No matter what, it is an excellent project for a 13 year old and you must be the favorite uncle .

      Keep the kid interested in science, machining, building things and MOST IMPORTANT.... Learning. He will be a better man for the experience with your help.

      Robin
      Robin

      Happily working on my second million Gave up on the first

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      • #4
        A very nice piece of work and I am sure great learning experience for all concerned!

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        • #5
          Edit.... Please delete.
          Last edited by jnissen; 04-20-2010, 01:21 AM.

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          • #6
            Neat stuff there. I do wonder how much of the work was your nephew and how much was it your work? I don't have any problem with kid doing a neat project but it has to be their work. I assist my son on his projects but it's all his work. I help proof read the write up (many many iterations!) so I know how difficult it is. Likewise I give him pointers and suggestions in the shop but he has got to do the design, the research, the actual machine work, etc... Yes they sometimes look imperfect but he knows the material and builds on it for the next year. It must be working as he won state this year.

            If it was 100% his work then that is great. I just thought it looked a bit to clean for a 13 year old. BTW - Did he participate or get invited to ISWEEP? It's an international fair for energy, engineering, and enviorment held each year in Houston TX? It just wrapped up yesterday and not sure if he was there or not?

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            • #7
              Rotate,

              Pretty good stuff there.

              Did you get the idea from sheriff Joe Arpaio from arizona?

              He's the guy who brought back chain gangs, houses prisoners in tents in the desert and makes them wear pink underwear, among other things.

              I just read that he has begun to allow prisoners to watch tv but there is a catch.

              They have to sit on a stationary bicycle that is hooked to a generator that powers the televisions.

              It is reportedly going over pretty well.

              Brian
              OPEN EYES, OPEN EARS, OPEN MIND

              THINK HARDER

              BETTER TO HAVE TOOLS YOU DON'T NEED THAN TO NEED TOOLS YOU DON'T HAVE

              MY NAME IS BRIAN AND I AM A TOOLOHOLIC

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              • #8
                Give that poor kid a flywheel! Very nice project.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by jnissen
                  If it was 100% his work then that is great. I just thought it looked a bit to clean for a 13 year old. BTW - Did he participate or get invited to ISWEEP? It's an international fair for energy, engineering, and enviorment held each year in Houston TX? It just wrapped up yesterday and not sure if he was there or not?
                  I know what you mean. First of all, no science fair project of any quality is done without a mentor. I made sure that I spent many many hours going over the theory of welding, mechanical design, and electromagnetic theory. He know how everything works from how MDF board is made to Faraday's theory. I went over the design and demonstrated first what to do, and after that he did all the work under my supervision. The reason why everything looks so neat is because we planned very carefully and I made him redo anything that wasn't exactly to the plan. I would say that at least 80% of the work was done by him. It helps to have a child who's eager to learn.

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                  • #10
                    Very nice project and my congratulations to your son since I presume he did most of the work.

                    It does bring up a question about the purpose of a science fair and what is expected from the entrants.

                    A science fair is supposed to be a display of projects that are intended to inquire about some aspect of the world around us and it's inhabitants. To this end a science fair project should start by asking a question about something that doesn't have an obvious or trivial answer. The goal then is to formulate experiments that can serve to illuminate the question and to do so by using the scientific method.

                    Your son's project falls in the category of demonstration. While there is no doubt that it was a valuable learning experience it doesn't meet the criteria of inquiry that a true science project should address.

                    As an example, the generator could serve to answer the question of just how much power a human can produce with that apparatus over a set period of time. To further that line of investigation he could also determine how much time on the generator would be required to charge a battery to provide for the operation of various devices. The amount of effort required could also be approximated by measuring breath and heart rates of volunteers in comparison to well documented activities such as stair climbing.

                    It is that sort of additional knowledge based goal setting and research that takes a project out of the category of demonstration and makes it a contender for national competition and recognition.
                    Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Evan
                      Your son's project falls in the category of demonstration. While there is no doubt that it was a valuable learning experience it doesn't meet the criteria of inquiry that a true science project should address.
                      It was my nephew that I was helping. What I didn't show was all the experiment that he did using the device and the result was posted on the display board.

                      The hypothesis of the project was to determine whether a portable human powered generator can generate enough electricity to charge portable electronics (in an effort to offset carbon foot print), and also provide power to rural villages in developing countries where CFL/LED could be used to light the homes. Unfortunately in 2010, almost all science fair projects have to have some environmental or social slant. Sigh...this was definitely not the case when I enter science fair in my high school years. We were allowed to building things just for the sake of the technology.

                      The power output was determined by submerging a resistor (load) in a known volume of volume (in a thermos) and measuring the rise in temperature. He did this with different loads and different rates. Lots of graphs and tables were obtains, which lead to the conclusion that a portable generator like this could indeed be used to power portable electronics and using battery light number of homes.

                      There was a genuine scientific inquiry which in theory could have been work out based on energy output of human muscles, but the nature of experiment is to demonstrate that a theory is correct. Or at least show that a particular method of harnessing human muscle power is technically possible and practical.

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                      • #12
                        That looks like a really nice job. If he didn't walk out on you before the end (with all the "do it over if you didn't do it right the first time" ), I think you have an extraordinary young engineer there.

                        There are certain professions that really can't be done properly by someone who is not capable of that level of quality even at a young age. Sounds like your nephew is one of them. Keep him engaged!

                        -Pete
                        I just like to make stuff.

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                        • #13
                          There was a genuine scientific inquiry .....

                          Excellent. Exploring environmental impact is a very broad field and full of questions that need answers.
                          Free software for calculating bolt circles and similar: Click Here

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                          • #14
                            sounds like a good project to me...

                            there was a program on TV recently where they setup a human power station (people on bicycles with back wheel linked to a dynamo) linked to a "regular" house and got a family to live in this house for a day. Every time they used a kettle or the oven you got to see a load of people on bikes start sweating and cursing again..

                            You also saw one of the presenters cook a chicken using nothing but a couple of incandescent bulbs...

                            If your interested google for "bang goes the theory : the human power station"

                            Batt

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                            • #15
                              A human powered alternator is actually a very good project for all ages. The best I can manage is a sustained 50 watts though I can peak at over 300 for a few seconds.

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