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Hacking Energy | Projects

  • The bike that we created uses human energy and converts it in ways that would be very helpful to an individual. Using magnets, wood and coils we were able to create a motor that attaches to the back of the bike. The purpose of this motor was to be able to charge a phone. At the end of the last day, our final product was finally able to indirectly charge a phone. When a battery is hooked up to the motor it will charge, and this battery can later be used to charge a phone. 

  • When Sean showed the group different ways to create power using basic tools on the first day, we immediatly wanted to jump in and start creating. Innitially, we had the idea to create a giant hamster wheel which charges phones/computers when a person runs in it. Although this seemed like a fun idea, it would have been a very hard task to do. We then began to brainstorm other possible things we could do with energy. The group came up with an idea to put solar pannels on a backpack that charges your phone using sunlight. We also thought of creating a shoe that charges your phone when you walk. After all of these crazy ideas we finally settled on the idea to create a bike that charges an iphone. 

    On the first day of building, we cleaned off an old bike that was already in the nuvu space. We then put a premade motor on the back of the bike to test out how it would work. After finding that the store bought motor would be able to charge a phone, we decided to create our own motor. We then looked up online different ways of creating a motor and finally settled on a design that resembles a wind turbine. This motor required many circles of wood with specific holes in them in order to secure the proper pieces. We used sketchup and the lazer cutter to create these circles. Originally, the holes in our circle were unproportional to the axel, so we had to start over. After we finally got the right measurements down, we printed out the circles in wood on the lazer cutter. We then carefully placed the magnents into the holes on the wooden circle making sure that they did not get to close to eachother. We then began creating the first coils that were put into the coil circle and tested out on a lightbulb. When attached to the bike this first prototype was able to light a lightbulb, but we wanted it to do more. 

    During the second week we started out by redesigning the whole concept for the bike’s chassis. The new chassis design was pretty similar to the prior one however we sawed the handlebars and the front half of the bike off. After this change, the generators consisted of just the motor, axle, and pedals and back half of the chassis. Cutting the front half of the bike off made the remaining newly redesigned pedal generator more compact, portable and easier to use. One big issue we faced early in the project and that was the change and gears. The original chain on the bike did not fit on the new motors axle so we had to replace it with a new chain. This chain wasn’t long enough and it was rusty and it just caused a few problems.

    The next step in our project was remaking and remodeling the coil-aspect of our homemade motor/generator. This unfortunately meant that we had to go back to Sketchup to make the design better. As it turned out, Sketchup didn’t even get the job done so we had to download the program Rhinoceros from the Internet. Rhinoceros is similar to Sketchup in the sense that it’s a design software that is capable of sending DXF files to the laser cutter for cutting; however, it’s different because it uses more precise measurements than Sketchup. Using Rhinoceros, with Sean’s help, we created a new design for the coil disc and stationary back plate. The new design included two layers of the coil disc that created a deeper space for the coils to rest in making them stay in better and not jumble around. We also put ball bearings in the center of each coil with directed the pull from the magnets towards the coil and allowed them to be more effective. With the optimized coil component in check, and our original magnet disc still functional, we began doing the wiring on the back of the motor. After soldering the wires to the end of the wound copper coils, we had to test the polarity of each set of wires using a strong magnet and a voltage meter. We added a few more optimizations to the coil disc like thin layers of protective plastic over the top and bottom of the disc to keep the coils from falling out and to keep the wires in place as well. Once the coil disc was as close to perfect as we could make it, we put the fully made motor on the half-bike-chassis and connected it, with the chain, to the axle. We then faced a new problem; the bike simple did not stand up on its own. To solve this problem, with the help of Henry Bailey and Sean, we made a stand out of wood, which kept the bike in place while the operator was pedaling it. The stand creation process caused some problems just like everything else in every project causes some problems. These problems centered around one common issue, which was that the bike was not a regular shape; it was bike-shaped. The awkward way a bike is shaped made it difficult to get it to fit into the wooden stand in an easy fashion. We then solved this problem by using the drill press to cut a 1.5’’ hole through the base 2x4 and then flipped the bike upside-down so that part of it could fit in the hole and it could stand up by itself with the help of some other additions to the stand. After a little bit of collaboration and testing, we were able to make the bike generator into something that could be used by an individual in a chair pedaling it. This created a much easier user experience.

    On that Monday, it was time for us to add the final cosmetic touches and some last second optimizations. We, with Sean, hooked the wires up to a diode and through a rectifier that converted the energy being created from alternative current into direct current that could be used to say, charge a phone or a laptop. At the last second we decided that we were going to try to make the phone-charging aspect of the project really happen so we hooked the wires up to a USB port then plugged in the iPhone charger along with Kenzie’s iPhone. The bike, due to some inefficiency problems was unable to generate enough power to bring the phone to a charging state however we were able to work around this dilemma in the end. What we ended up doing was plug the bike into a rechargeable battery, which we were then able to plug into the phone and cause it to charge. In the end, the PowerBike© did actually do what we originally intended it to do in that it, according to the transitive property, charged a phone. Even though we faced some problems over the duration of the studio, in the end everything pretty much worked out and the bike, in my opinion was a big success!

  • While working on the project, I learned a lot of skills that I can now use essentially for the rest of my life. I learned how to use tools like a vice grip, a wrench and a soldering iron. I also learned how to use architectural design software like Rhinoceros and Sketchup. Even though everything worked out pretty well in the end, if I had more time to work on this studio I would optimize the bike to increase efficiency. I would hope to make it so that the bike, without the battery to help, could charge a phone directly and without the use of incredibly fast, rigorous pedaling. To do this I would make the back gear smaller to increase the gear ratio, making it harder to pedal but also making it generate more power. Overall, I enjoyed this studio because of its hands-on nature and lack of strenuous restrictions in design ideas. I hope to do more work with creative alternative energy generation in the future.