By DASCHELL M. PHILLIPS
Ray Elementary School was awarded two pedal-powered bicycles from Climate Cycle’s 2012 Green Schools Grant. The electricity generated from the bikes will be used to power items used in several of the school’s extracurricular programs.
Climate Cycle, a Chicago-based non-profit founded to build youth awareness about global warming, provides ways for school kids to become involved in helping to address the issue of climate change. The proposal to apply for the bikes was written by Leslie Travis, librarian; Joseph Kerney, 5th grade teacher, and Antonia Perez, gym teacher at Ray, 5631 S. Kimbark Ave. Ray is Climate Cycle’s first eleemntary school partner to receive energy bikes.
Travis, who found the grant, said she was searching for a way to help Ray students be more active in the battle to stop climate change.
“They don’t understand everything but they know about global warming and the energy crisis,” Travis said. “Children would like to be a part of the solution.”
Travis said she didn’t want something that just demonstrated conservation, she wanted items that students could also use to save energy in the school. She sought out Perez and Kerney, who share her ideals about students benefiting from a practical learning approach.
“I love when my students can see real world application of what we study in the classroom,” Kerney said. “It’s good to have discussions about the process. It motivates them when they understand how their work relates to real life.”
Travis said the students have been actively involved in the process since the first bike arrived. The school’s robotics team came in during winter break to help Travis and Perez set up the bike in the library.
Van Myers and Elvis Wolcott, 5th graders and members of the Ray robotics team, said the bikes were not too hard to put together.
“When the bike arrived a lot of it was already put together,” Wolcott said. “There was a spike training, bike body, alternator and a battery.”
Myers said in addition to assembling the bike they learned the most efficient way to use it.
“We learned that the right seat adjustment and pedal adjustment for a person’s height is important to generating the right amount of energy,” Myers said.
The bike is a basic boy’s frame bicycle with a belt attached to the rear wheel, according to Erin Potter, schools programming coordinator at Climate Cycle. The belt is attached to a pulley on an alternator and once a person begins pedaling on the bike a charge from the alternator charges the battery. The alternator and battery are the same as those used in cars. The battery is housed in a traveling case on wheels so that it can be moved around the school to charge different items.
Once the bikes were set up, the basketball team took a break from practice to test them out.
“I thought it was just some scientific stuff,” said Mark Lewis, 6th grader and member of the Ray Elementary School Warriors Basketball Team. “I was surprised when I found out it generated power.”
Lewis said he would probably use an energy-generated bike at home if he was “tired, mad or needed a workout.”
Travis, who has requested an additional bike that will be small enough for Ray’s primary grade students, said she is expecting to have four bikes by the end of the year.
The electric energy created from the bikes will be used to power the scoreboard in the gym during games and sewing machines for the school’s new sewing club. Travis said she is hoping the energy bikes can in the future power the library’s computer catalogue and a pencil-sharpening station.