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Kid Energy
Dawn Danby, 7 Mar 04


South Africa's Roundabout has devised a way to harness the energy generated by kids playing (ingenious in itself), as they spin on an outdoor merry-go-round. Carrying water several kilometres per day results in hours of lost employment, and widespread use of poor-quality water; this is a win-win alternative. NPR's The World recently reported on the playpumps:

"The children push the merry-go-round again and again. As they run, a device in the ground beneath them begins to turn. With every rotation of the merry-go-round, water is pumped out of a well, up through a pipe, and into a tank high above the playground.

"A few feet away from all the fun, students in uniform turn on a tap. Clean, cold drinking water pours out. This is Motshegofadiwa Primary School, 15 miles north of Pretoria. It’s in a town called Stinkwater; locals say there’s a good reason for that name. The water around here used to smell. School Principal Peter Banyana says the water supply was also erratic before the Play-Pump arrived... Now Banyana says the children can pump enough water for everyone. There are 500 Play-Pumps around South Africa, most of them installed at schools like this one, where students live in poverty and resources are few."

The roundabouts also serve to display social marketing on AIDS awareness, and are partly financed by billboard advertisements.

(via Rebecca's Pocket)

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That's probably the coolest idea I've seen all year. I love it!!!

Posted by: CTP on 7 Mar 04

Sounds like child exploitation to me.

Posted by: Stefan Thomas on 8 Mar 04

Yeah, yeah! They carefully cropped the photo so you couldn't see the DynaGen mercenaries poised to beat these kids with truncheons.

Imagine, providing playground equipment and making kids have fun on it. They should have hired an adult to stand there and spin it all day while the kids played with broken glass and old tires.

Posted by: Stefan Jones on 8 Mar 04

I always thought that we could harnass the power of fitness gyms. i wonder if it gyms could at least be energy self sufficient?

Posted by: adrian cotter on 8 Mar 04

I totally love this idea.

The World Bank's up to some interesting stuff:

Posted by: Alex on 8 Mar 04

Great idea. I just wish the proper people were credited for it. The earliest I've heard of it was in the 70's at a place in Eastern Columbia called Gaviotas. Read the book of the same name, it's inspiring.

Posted by: Kevin on 8 Mar 04

Kevin - That's interesting. I have read Gaviotas, but Social Design Notes' Aug 03 post about it reminded me about their policy against patenting inventions, preferring to share their designs freely (he also lists other inventions developed at the site). This may account for any failure to credit the designer.

Victor Papanek, who worked for UNESCO, famously held a similar policy, and his work was copied for years. His approach had to do with making useful designs available to the largest possible population in the developing world.

DemoTech (based in the Netherlands) seems to work on similar principles:

Posted by: Dawn Danby on 8 Mar 04

Note to Stefan Jones...

Uncanny coincidence of names, eh? I first heard about this on NPR's "Marketplace" about ten days ago. Look at the source...the World Bank...they are doing a great job! (NOT!!!!!!!)

The kids are producing energy - surplus energy - for what compensation ...FUN?!!! Hey, just wait 'til your boss tells you ... "Did you have fun at work last week? Great, so we won't pay you." And what will you do? Grin and bear it? Kids first, you next!

Posted by: Stefan Thomas on 9 Mar 04

I like how they make it seem like the alternative to pumping a well with children's playing is them carrying water all day. The only ingenuity here seems to be that someone is actually building pipes and a tank, I don't understand why they don't just skip the playpump and use a regular hand pump or maybe a bicycle pump, and maybe save some money, but maybe that's just the waste involved in most foreign aid.

Posted by: Ben on 9 Mar 04

S. RaJ Pandian of Tulane Univ is building seesaw air compressors for playgrounds as well.

Posted by: gmoke on 9 Mar 04

A good idea indeed, also interesting to discover that children can contribute to producing energy while having fun.

Posted by: KGOMOTSO on 9 May 04

a brilliant idea indeed

Posted by: kgomotso on 9 May 04

absolutely wonderful.

Posted by: dimakatso on 10 May 04

absolutely wonderful.

Posted by: dimakatso on 10 May 04


Posted by: DIMAKATSO on 11 May 04

that is super dooper

Posted by: sebenzile on 13 May 04



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