Eamae Mirkin

Ideas for Good Generating Gym

August 2011

Technical Direction / Prototype / Data Visualization

Toyota / Saatchi & Saatchi LA / Deeplocal

As part of the Ideas for Good Prius Campaign, Toyota invited everyday people to share their ideas for using Toyota technology to make the world a better place. Deeplocal, in Colaboration with Saatchi & Saatchi LA, helped five winners take their ideas to the next level by producing functional prototypes at a filmed event held at Carnegie Mellon University. I was responsible for leading a project team in developing an idea submitted by Birken Schimpff to use regenerative breaking technology to harvest energy from gym equipment.

Since rotary power-generating gym eqipment, like stationary bikes and elipticals, already exist as commercial products, we worked with Birken to persue a prototype that would harvest energy from weight-bearing excercises. The colaborative prototyping and filming took place over just a few days—a tight timeline to make a working prototype. To accomodate for this, I developed the technical specs and fabricated various compontants in advance.

We hacked an off-the-shelf universal gym system to convert the force of excersise into rotary motion to turn a generator. The system uses a bike wheel with a planetary gear hub so that the user can change ratios to move a "heavier" resistance and produce more energy per rep. We measured the produced energy with a custom hardware and software system and stored it in a small car battery. Two DC car jacks allowed users to charge their phone from their workout.

Some folks from How Stuff Works dot com did a feature on gym, and interviewed Birken.