Elec­tric­ity thanks to a merry-go-round


Gen­er­at­ing elec­tric­ity through play. That’s the sim­ple but inspired idea of an Amer­i­can hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion: Em­power Play­grounds, which spe­cial­izes in elec­tric­i­ty­gen­er­at­ing play­ground equip­ment for chil­dren in de­prived coun­tries.

In Pe­di­a­torkope, a tiny im­pov­er­ished is­land in south­east Ghana, the lo­cals don’t have elec­tric­ity. The is­land is not linked to the na­tional energy grid. To bring them elec­tric light, Em­power Play­grounds had the idea of in­stalling a spe­cial merry-go-round in the play­ground of a lo­cal pri­mary school. When the chil­dren push and spin it around, it pow­ers a tur­bine which cre­ates energy. The merry-go-round also recharges bat­ter­ies which can power energy-sav­ing LED lamps for more than 40 hours.

The chil­dren are re­spon­si­ble for recharg­ing the bat­ter­ies dur­ing their play­time. In the evening they take these lamps home. The idea is life-chang­ing, be­cause un­til now, it was dif­fi­cult to have light when night fell. Thanks to these lamps — which are less dan­ger­ous than the oil-lamps which many vil­lagers use — they can con­tinue their stud­ies and do their home­work at home. As a re­sult, stu­dents are get­ting bet­ter re­sults at school be­cause of this in­ge­nious in­ven­tion.

“Be­fore, we couldn’t give the chil­dren work to do at home be­cause it was dark when they got back af­ter school. As a re­sult they had poor re­sults at school, whereas now, thanks to these lamps, they are mak­ing progress,” a teacher told the media. This has the fur­ther ad­van­tage of stu­dents be­ing able to con­tinue their ed­u­ca­tion af­ter pri­mary school.

The merry-go-round pro­ject is al­ready in place in 42 schools out of the 40,000 across the coun­try. This African na­tion is of­ten af­fected by elec­tric­ity short­ages which in­ter­rupt the ev­ery­day lives of its in­hab­i­tants, par­tic­u­larly those who live out in the coun­try­side.

The hu­man­i­tar­ian or­ga­ni­za­tion is also launch­ing another pro­ject, set­ting up a small fac­tory pro­duc­ing so­lar energy — which Africa has no short­age of! — on the is­land. Lo­cals can buy a bat­tery which will power sev­eral lamps, as well as charge their mo­bile phones. The bat­tery lasts a month and costs ap­prox­i­mately 1.30 eu­ros (US$1.47) to recharge. This money pays for main­te­nance at the so­lar energy plant.

This in­ven­tion looks set to have a bright fu­ture. It’s es­ti­mated that through­out the world, around 600 mil­lion peo­ple do not have the means of light­ing their homes, with Africa the con­ti­nent worst af­fected.

Em­power Play­grounds Inc./Crys Ke­van Leee

When the chil­dren push and spin the merry-go-around, it pow­ers a tur­bine which cre­ates energy and recharges lamp bat­ter­ies.

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