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Fin wants to know the potential of bicycle to generate electricity and pumping water?

A question from Fin:

Hi, my name is Fin and I'm a 6th form student in London. I am doing Design & Technology A-Level, and am currently researching and looking into what problem I could try and design and manufacture a solution for. I have been looking along the lines of devices/equipment that could allow people living in poorer countries to improve their situations and to be able to have a better life. At the moment I am investigating the potential for a device that could convert the power from a bicycle (either using a stationary mount for the bicycle or siphoning off power when it is moving), into either electrical energy or directly into some other sort of mechanical work (my ideas were pumping water, doing some sort of agricultural process, powering a fridge, but I'm sure there are better ideas). My questions are: do you think this is a viable and useful project idea to potentially help improve the lives of people in poorer areas? If so, would it be possible to give me rough guidance on where the problem areas are? I look forward to hearing back from you. Thank you very much, Fin White

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Dear Fin

You aren't the first to think of using bicycles to power technology! There are quite a few projects that have tried installing bicycles to pump water with the idea that the children will do the hard work giving their mums a break! I've attached here a project write up from one in Guatemala. Unfortunately many of the projects haven't really considered the practicalities to ensure that this solution is sustainable. Once the bicycles break they are often tossed aside and the women - who are usually the ones to collect the water - are left hauling the water up by hand. They might have been better off with a basic but reliable bucket and winch.

So look at your project from the point of view of the users and the long term sustainability of the technology. Who will use it? What will happen when it breaks? Can they get spare parts cheaply and immediately? Will they be motivated to mend it or will it be easier to ditch it?

I would suggest you could look at other applications where the users are more clearly motivated to keep the technology in good working order, such as charging mobile phones or radios.

Good luck with the project!

Harriette (RedR WASH Engineer)

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Hi Ahana, That's really impressive and appreciable that Fin started thinking of the poorer people at this age and the eagerness for contribution.

We are delighted to share one of our idea, has been shortlisted in Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity last year. It's a generational breakthrough for us and we have used the kinetic energy of pedaling to filter contaminated water for purification and to have clean and safe water.

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This innovation is triggered to change millions of livelihoods of low income community especially the rickshaw (tri-cylce) pullers in Bangladesh. Please go through the attachment PedalPure briefing.pdffor details and of course the video

All the best wishes for Fin and please let us know if you need any further support or information.


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Hi Fin Great that you're looking at this. If you're interested in the best way of harnessing human energy, you might wish to look at the treadle pump (uses the strongest muscles in the human body), widely used in East Africa. Also the Rope Washer Pump (PumpAid) - there is potential to use leg-power for that - I have worked on that. Let me know if this is of interest and we can discuss further. Bobby Lambert

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