Count it as one small step for students, one giant leap for Riverdale Country School.
On Monday, the school unveiled a new energy-converting tile installation outside the cafeteria. As students walk, run across, and jump on the slightly elevated ramp’s eight tiles, they convert kinetic energy from students’ footsteps into electrical energy.
The tiles, made of mainly recycled materials, are an innovation of British company Pavegen, which works to convert kinetic energy from humans into renewable energy. While the company has installed its technology everywhere from Paris to Sydney, the Riverdale installation is the first permanent installation of its kind in the United States.
Energy from the footsteps powers two LED light boards with information about the tiles, multiple signs, and a cell phone charging station. A monitor across from the installation displays “live energy data,” including the amount of energy generated every five minutes, the total energy and power generated by the tiles and the total number of footsteps.
“People didn’t understand it at first,” said Zach Halem, the Riverdale senior who had the idea for the tile installation. “I said, step on the tiles and see what happens.”
With a few test hops, skips and jumps, his classmates soon caught on to the idea behind the tiles. The goal was to generate 50,000 joules of energy by the end of one week, but students reached 50,000 joules in three days.
Zach, 17, said that he has worked on various sustainability projects around the school as a student consultant as well as with solar and wind power in the past, but independent research led him to a new field of interest: kinetic energy.
“It was something that fascinated me because motion is ubiquitous — people are always walking,” said Zach, who first contacted Pavegen last summer, telling them he was interested in an installation for the school.
After a few weeks of designing a plan for the project, including projected energy outputs, expected carbon savings, and total cost, he presented it to Riverdale’s Director of Plant and Sustainability David Patnaude. After conducting further research, Mr. Patnaude approved the project mid-summer.