Good News of the Day: Pedal Power

Here’s a nice piece of good news the internet coughed up the other day… it has all the required components of a real feel-good piece: an innovative machine, a smart engineering student, a cool NGO and a tropical backdrop. Human interest galore. More importantly, the innovation actually works and is already improving the lives of many Guatemalans. Please read the rest of the Science Daily piece to see what a strategic impact this simple innovation is having on something as basic as getting water to mountain villages.

Student Uses Pedal Power to Create Novel Machine
ScienceDaily (June 1, 2010) — An innovative bicycle-powered water pump, created by a student at the University of Sheffield, has proved a huge success and is now in regular production in Guatemala, transforming the lives of rural residents.

Jon Leary, 24, a MEng student in the University´s Department of Mechanical Engineering, took his bicycle machine design from a Steel City drawing board to the heart of Guatemala as part of his dissertation, which required him to `make something useful out of rubbish.´
During his four month stint in Guatemala, Jon spent time improving the design for his bicibomba movil — a mobile bicycle-powered water pump to be used for irrigation and general water distribution — by working with the Guatemalan NGO Maya Pedal, who design and build a variety of weird and wonderful bicycle machines using abandoned bikes sent over from the US and Canada. Maya Pedal´s aim is to produce machines which can improve the daily lives of locals, without them having to resort to expensive electrical or environmentally damaging fossil fuelled machines. Their machines, which are human-powered sustainable energy sources, range from the bicilavadora (bicycle washing machine) to the bicimolino (corn grinder).

The new, improved and mobile bici pump in full effect powered without great effort by a little girl. Photo Maya Pedal

I’ve taken the liberty of grabbing this photo from the Maya Pedal website to illustrate the contraption cited above, but I strongly urge you to peek their site and take a look at the gallery, it’s definitely worth a click if you’re curious about this cross between Rube Goldberg and Lance Armstrong. With one little difference: these contraptions actually work and are being used. Indeed the photos of folks pedaling on their machines is good for a smile (maybe even a smirk) for us “plugged-in” folks, but the day the juice stops flowing down our wires, guess who’ll be smiling then (hint: not us).

The good news is that now you finally have an actual use for that static bike which has been collecting dust in your basement for the past (insert number here) years. With the instructions provided by Maya Pedal, you can turn it into an electric generator and finally find the motivation to pedal when the power is down. I for one have an old bicycle, a mechanical engineer friend and a wife that uses her bike every day. There’s always a light that never goes out.

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