A bike in the Memorial Union is not an unusual sight at UC Davis. However, a bike students can plug their laptops into has turned a few heads.
The pedal-powered laptop desk was created by an action resource team of graduate students in the Education for Sustainable Living Program. The program is part of a course offered every spring by the California Student Sustainability Coalition.
“Part of the mission we made for this project was to educate people about energy,” said Tai Stillwater, a member of the action resource team and a graduate student in the Transportation and Technology Policy program. “It’s the kind of thing you don’t think about every day, but when you’re sitting there pedaling, it’s more visible.”
The team made the bike out of mostly recycled and salvaged materials found in Davis. Additional materials were purchased with funds granted by the UC Davis Campus Sustainability program. Overall, the equipment cost the group about $700.
The desk, located outside Griffin Lounge, is free to use and has a standard outlet for students to plug in anything from laptops to blenders, Stillwater said.
“I just saw someone using it, and I wanted to try it out of curiosity,” said Quang Tran, a sophomore biochemistry and molecular biology major. “I use my laptop a lot, so [now] I don’t have to waste energy. It’s good exercise too.”
Upon mounting the bike, users pedal until the “charge meter” reads “sweet!” They must slow down, however, if the meter reaches the area called “slow!” The pedaler can then plug a device into the outlet on the side of the desk and attain power at a 50 percent efficiency rate, meaning that users work at 100 Watts to power a 50 Watt laptop or other electronic device.
The team has placed a fact sheet on the Plexiglas desktop so users can put their power production into perspective.
The sheet reads that while a laptop requires the wattage that one human can supply, powering an air conditioner would require the pedaling power of 20 humans. To power the entire UC Davis campus would require 270,000 pedalers.
“The benefit is education,” said Jack Draper, outgoing chair of the Environmental Policy and Planning Commission and sophomore wildlife fish and conservation biology major [cq]. “The bike itself is not going to offset that much in energy consumption, but it teaches people that there are alternate ways of running a laptop.”
Also, 30 minutes of exercise burns approximately 100 to 300 calories, depending on the vigor with which the rider pedals.
The bike has been in the MU since May 28 and will remain until the fall of next year. After that, the group hopes to have built another, better, model. They hope to gain the $1,000 they predict the new project to cost from another grant.
“Whenever you can go from pedal to power, that’s a really efficient device,” Stillwater said. “Plus this one is really fun to use.”
For more information on the construction of the desk, watch the group’s Youtube video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB3NkahC8DQ.
LAUREN STEUSSY can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.