NAU Students Build Bike-Powered Charging Station

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To use the bike-charging station, all students will have to do is plug in their small electronic devices, get on the bike, and pedal. Photo: Christina Woodward

There is a new form of alternative electrical energy at Northern Arizona University (NAU)—people power. After nearly a year of planning and construction, a small group of dedicated NAU students have discovered a hands-on, interactive way to charge their small electronic devices and educate their peers about electricity—by pedaling a bike at a Bike-Powered Charging Station. The station has a built-in USB outlet for plugging in cell phones and iPods. “This is a device where people can actually feel what power is and where it is coming from. This station will give students a physical idea of the energy they use,” said NAU senior Matt Petney, an engineering student.

To use the station, all students will have to do is plug in their small electronic devices, get on the bike, and pedal. “The station will be really helpful for students who need to charge something during the day,” said 2012 environmental engineering graduate Marilla Lamb.

A collaborative student effort

A cross-section of NAU students have contributed to the project and have built each component of the bike themselves. Engineering students, computer science students, and students from NAU’s triathlon and cycling teams all played a role in the development of the charging station. “We worked with the electrical engineering students and computer science students directly to create every piece from scratch,” said Petney. 

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Engineering students, computer science students, and students from NAU’s triathlon and cycling teams all played a role in the development of the charging station. Photo: Christina Woodward

 “This is a device where people can actually feel what power is and where it is coming from. This station will give students a physical idea of the energy they use.”

The students built the stand, placed glass around the battery, mounted the handlebars, and created the small computer touch screen that displays the amount of energy being produced. “It has been a lot of work,” said Lamb. The Yellow Bike Program at NAU donated the bike, and the Green Fund granted $2,900 to pay for building materials and supplies.

Charging station to move around campus

The Bike-Powered Charging Station will initially be placed on the second floor of the engineering building and will be moved to different buildings around campus throughout the year—with the goal of reaching as many students as possible.

“The objective of this project is to make students aware of the amount of electricity they use,” said Lamb. “We tend to plug things into outlets without any thought.”

In addition to raising student awareness about their energy consumption, the Bike-Powered Charging Station hopes to inspire additional new ideas and encourage other students to get involved. “Tons of these could be produced in the coming years. All we need are students to make it happen.  If students take the initiative, the opportunities are endless,” said Petney. “College is not all about what you learn from textbooks.”

--Candice Giffin

For more information about bicycle generators or to get involved, contact Karin Wadsack (karin.wadsack@nau.edu).

To learn more about the Green Fund or to see how you can apply for Green Fund grants, visit nau.edu/green or contact Green@nau.edu.