April 4, 2016

This Classroom Stationary Bike Generates Electricity From Kids Who Pedal As They Learn

Kids like to move while they read. Now they can create some energy with their extra energy.

A desk isn’t necessarily the best place to learn. For some students–especially those with ADHD–squirming is a good thing. If a child can move a little bit while they read, they’ll actually remember more information.

A few schools have started running Read and Ride programs, where kids sit on stationary bikes and get a little exercise as they read a book. A school in North Carolina that added a classroom full of bikes found that by the end of a school year, the children who’d spent the most time on the bikes had higher reading scores.

A new bike takes Read and Ride a step farther. While students ride, the pedaling also generates a little electricity, enough to charge a tablet or phone or send a little power back into the grid. “It ticks all these different boxes–health, sustainability, education,” says Adam Boesel, designer of the Green Microcycle.

Boesel first started designing power-generating bikes as a gym owner, so his spinning classes could help offset a little of the electricity the building used. Schools soon started asking for child-sized bikes they could use as a way to help students learn about science and technology.

“You can teach about the transfer of energy. You can teach about renewable energy; how much energy it really takes to make 100 watts,” he says. “Which is all great stuff. But then what I got really excited about was sensory breaks for active learners.”

After shipping some bikes to schools around the country, Boesel had a chance to deliver one to a local school. “I was actually able to go in and see how it was used,” he says. “One of the first things that happened was the special education teacher approached me and said, ‘you know this is really fantastic for some of the kids who have either a lot of extra energy or some other stuff going on, where they can just climb on the bike and focus.’”

The latest version of the bike, under development now, includes a book stand so it can double as both a science education tool and part of a Read and Ride program. And, of course, it’s also a way for kids–who sit an average of 8.5 hours a day–to get some exercise.

Boesel’s five-year-old son, Charlie, is testing the latest prototype. “He just jumps on there a lot,” he says. “Sometimes he’s just absentmindedly pedaling and talking. Most of the time he has his iPad. He’s on [the bike] all the time. As opposed to where he used to be, which was on the couch, hunched over . . . It’s nice to have him moving around more.”