At most schools 'going green' means generating less trash or making a conscientious attempt to recycle. But at New York's Riverdale Country School, it means being encouraged to run and even jump in the hallway. That's because on January 7th, 2014, the school became the first American venue for the specially designed Pavegen floor tiles.
The tiles harness kinetic energy expanded by the kids and transform it into electricity that can be used to power classroom lights, science projects and charge electronic devices. The inaugural US installation of eight tiles near the school's student center is thanks to 14-year-old Zach Halem, who managed to convince the officials to purchase them.
Besides providing fun green energy, the tiles also serve as a learning tool. Every time a student steps on one, a brightly lit LED board provides instant feedback on how much energy was generated. Depending on the force, every step results in between one to seven watts - enough power to light an LED street lamp for about 30 seconds. In addition, the amazing tiles also provide the school with data such as the volume of steps or the impact of mass movements like when students decide to stomp on the tiles together.
Made largely from rubber and other recycled materials the tiles that have been around since 2009, are the brainchild of 26-year-old British Industrial designer Laurence Kembell-Cook. While new to the US, they have been installed in numerous venues in Europe - ranging from a London Underground Station during the 2012 Olympics to a marathon track in Paris. However, it was not until PaveGen started getting popular in London schools that Laurence realized that his invention not only saved energy, but was also, fun!
Though the young inventor will not reveal too many details about the technology behind this unassuming looking green tile, he does assert that it is very different from other kinetic energy harvesting systems, most of which are based on piezoelectricity. Laurence maintains that piezoelectricity relies on high spikes, which make it difficult to to get a consistent flow of energy. His solution, which he describes as a hybrid, is similar to piezoelectricity in that when people walk on the slab, it deflects the top sheet by about 5mm or just enough for it to be converted to electricity. But what happens after that remains a mystery!
Whatever the secret, let's hope more US schools decide to install these fun tiles. In fact, why stop at schools? These durable tiles could be installed everywhere - from sidewalks to homes - Then we could all be 'green' and have fun! Who knew that was even possible?
Resources: gizmag.com,fastcoexist.com, pavegen.com,blogs.riverdale.edu