Cambridge High-Schoolers Are Turning Sidewalks into Energy Sources

Imagine if the sidewalk was an energy source, and every step you took on it generated power. Well, this is no sci-fi fantasy! Such kinetic energy tiles will soon be installed in Cambridge, thanks to an intrepid group of high school students.

Calling themselves the Power Saviors, students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School (CRLS) won the Glocal Challenge competition in 2016 with their idea of installing kinetic energy tiles on Cambridge sidewalks. These tiles generate energy after pressure is applied to them by footsteps, bicycle wheels and cars. The energy is then stored in a battery and can be used to power lights, appliances or other utilities. The Glocal Challenge is an eightweek competition hosted by CRLS, EF Education First and the City of Cambridge to propose solutions to global challenges with local implications. In 2016, the challenge was to decrease energy use in our community by 2017 in order for Cambridge to win the Georgetown University Energy Prize. As winners of the popular vote, the Power Saviors worked with the Community Development Department to research the most effective locations for installing kinetic energy tiles in Cambridge. Last summer, the students collected data by counting the number of

The Glocal Challenge is an eight-week competition hosted by CRLS, EF Education First and the City of Cambridge to propose solutions to global challenges with local implications. In 2016, the challenge was to decrease energy use in our community by 2017 in order for Cambridge to win the Georgetown University Energy Prize. As winners of the popular vote, the Power Saviors worked with the Community Development Department to research the most effective locations for installing kinetic energy tiles in Cambridge. 

The Energy Saviors accepting their award

Last summer, the students collected data by counting the number of people who walk, skate, bike or stroll through Harvard Square, Kendall Square, Inman Square and Porter Square. From that data, they decided that the best places to put the tiles were Harvard Square and outside of CRLS. For example, in front of one restaurant in Harvard Square there was an average of 1,500 footsteps per hour. Each footstep generates about 4 watts, which is an average of 6,000 watts per hour. For context, it takes 10-20 watts to power a tablet for an hour. In addition to the energy produced, the Power Saviors feel that the tiles are a great educational and awareness-building resource for Cambridge.

Team members Hayley Swope, Maroua Oudani, Ginely Baltodano, Nitant Rimal, and Hassan Gudal have been strong advocates for the project, explaining, “After winning the Glocal Challenge, the next step was to try to get funding through the City via Participatory Budgeting. We submitted our idea and worked hard to get as many votes as possible. We went classroom to classroom to gather votes of support.”

The Power Saviors’ proposal to Participatory Budgeting was selected, winning $50,000 to be allocated for purchasing and installing energy-producing tiles during the next fiscal year.

So if you find yourself in Cambridge, keep your eyes open for the tiles and feel free to walk all over them!

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