Human-Powered Machines Resource List: Pedal to the Metal

DIY Plans and Resources to Buy Human-Powered Machines

Adults of average physical fitness can produce between 50 and 150 watts of mechanical power pedaling a bicycle. Why not put that power to work powering electronics, appliances and other machines? You’ll get fit while reducing your dependence of fossil fueled electricity.

Pedal-powered machines are favorite spectacles at fairs and events, churning out smoothies and powering televisions. But pedal-powered blenders are just the beginning, and human-powered technologies date back hundreds of years. Today, the setup usually incorporates a generator and inverter in order to convert your mechanical work into electrical energy. However, this is not always the case. Either way, groups and resources abound to help you construct your own human-powered machines for cheap -- giving you a bit more motivation to move your body.

woman pedaling, couch potato

DIY Human-Powered Machines

Excerpted from Tamara Dean's book, The Human-Powered Home, learn to convert an old bicycle frame into a garden seed cultivator.
Excerpted from Tamara Dean's book, The Human-Powered Home, learn to convert an electric sewing machine to operate using treadle power.
MOTHER blogger Ed Essex’s article explains how to build a lever-powered deep well pump.

“Make Electricity While You Exercise,” MOTHER EARTH NEWS
John Gulland’s article tells you why pedal-powered generators can play a small but useful role in your home.

“Pedal Power for Your Grain Grinder,” MOTHER EARTH NEWS

MOTHER editor, Jennifer Kongs, reports on the Bodine Motor kit that turns your bicycle into a GrainMaker grain grinder.

"Supplement Your Home's Power With a Bicycle Generator," MOTHER EARTH NEWS
MOTHER's editors tell you how, just by combining a bicycle with a battery and automobile alternator, you can pedal up some additional watts for your home.
Appropedia is the appropriate technology encyclopedia. Check out their A to Z (okay, A to W) list of topics on their pedal power category page. Be sure to check for future article updates – or add a few of your own.

The Bike Blender Blog
You’re invited into Matthew Corson-Finnerty’s workshop to discover his experimental designs, pushing the limits for what can be done with a couple spare bicycles and some welding tools.

The Human Powered Home
This companion website for Tamara Dean’s 2008 book, The Human-Powered Home, offers a news blog and links to all things people-powered.
“How to Create a Smoothie Making Human Powered Bike Blender for Less Than $25”: This step-by-step guide provides photos of all parts needed to get your bike blender up and smoothie-making on the cheap.

Human-Powered Organizations and Companies

Human Dynamo
This company is determined to harness the mechanical energy right where many cyclists congregate: the gym. By linking a bank of stationary bicycles to an electrical generator, cyclists add a little juice to the electricity demands of their facility.

Pedal Power Engineering
This small Essex, N.Y., engineering firm designs and builds custom human-powered devices.

Powered by The People
By using different pedal-powered devices like a human-powered blender and the biker bar to perform work and generate electricity at local events, Canada’s Powered by The People aims to create an open forum for conversation about sustainability, cycling and alternative energy.

Rock the Bike
When power was cut to San Francisco’s Occupy movement, Rock the Bike brought pedal to protest powering generators. Purchase from their store and check out their extensive YouTube collection of videos.

SpringActive Company
Current applications for the military create 5 to 6 w power as soldiers walk through a power pack strapped to the back of their ankles.

Sustainable Dance Club
“Energy Floors” dance clubs use kinetic energy of dancing feet to provide bars and buildings with power.

Woodway EcoMill
This totally self-powered treadmill provides a unique green alternative to motorized treadmills. Utilizing an innovative curved running surface, this all manual treadmill has been proven to burn up to 30% more calories than motorized treadmills.

Pedal Power Appropriate Tech for the Developing World

Alternative Energy News
AEN’s Human Power Webpage features pedal-powered laptops in Afghanistan, a pedal-powered dynapod, heritage wooden bicycles, and more.

Engineering For Change
Aaron Stathum and Eliot Coven, industrial design students at Philadelphia University, collaborated with Sudanese refugees at a job-placement service in New Jersey to create this ultra low-tech washing machine that operates with a 5-gal bucket and some plastic rope.

Human Powered Machines
The Human Powered Network of Eugene, Ore., believes that “just as a monoculture system impairs the health of agriculture, one basic bike frame form limits the potential of human-powered transportation.” They host workshops and apprenticeships, and offer a line of pedal-powered haulers to fit the whole family’s needs.

Maya Pedal
This NGO realizes the practical benefits of utilizing pedal power in developing parts of the world; places where electricity is often expensive and difficult to get. In Guatamala, Maya Pedal has a busy workshop staffed by locals and by volunteers from around the world offering repairs and selling used bikes.

Human-Powered Machines in the News

Designer Christoph Thetard
Thetard’s R2B2 is an all-in-one human-powered kitchenette. It’s not only functional, but proves beauty comes in compact packages.
EcoFriend has compiled “10 Amazing Pedal Machines,” showcasing a water purifier, snow plow, bottle cooler and heater, and even a law mower.

Low-Tech Magazine
Low-Tech Magazine’s Human Powered Machines Page compiles 13 posts on everything from pedal cars and cargo-carrying cyclists to antiquated human-powered cranes and hand-cranked drills. In addition to offering a history of human-powered technologies, the site profiles an extensive list of all-but-obsolete technologies.

No Tech Magazine
Get a history lesson while you work. Like Low Tech Magazine, No Tech’s Human-Powered Webpage posts great articles on heritage technologies, such as prison treadmills, hand-operated vacuum cleaners, apple peelers, and even a pedal wool carding machine.
“12 Bizarre Pedal Powered Things” features some of the wackier ideas to come out of the human-powered world: a Japanese roller coaster, pedal-powered tractor, carnival ride, graffiti, and more.

Peanut Sheller, Pedal Powered
Watch this BBC video on YouTube of an appropriate tech peanut sheller.

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