10/05/2013 11:36 am ET

Kids Push Merry-Go-Round To Generate Electricity For Night Study In Ghana

Empower Playgrounds

Generating power is child's play in Ghana.

Merry-go-rounds built for schools harness electricity as the students spin them around, Fast Company reported. The kids then use the energy to study by light in a nation covered by 12 hours of darkness every day.

Schoolchildren in rural Ghana help with chores or on farms until sundown, leaving no time for homework because of a power shortage in rural areas, according to Empower Playgrounds, the nonprofit behind the equipment.

Ben Markham, who developed the merry-go-round for Empower, estimated in the Fast Company story that healthy 8- to 12 -year-olds create 150 watts of energy per hour at play. Some of the power is channeled into LED lanterns that luminate shared homework areas.

A YouTube video posted by nonprofit PlayLightLearn (see below) shows an Empower light being used by a 13-year-old girl; the device appears to have the luminosity of about a medium-sized desk lamp.

On its site, the organization states that each playground system costs about $10,000. Gizmag wrote that the power source acts like a windmill generator, and a solar panel helps keep the equipment's battery juiced during school holidays.

Markham and his wife relocated to Ghana for 18 months after he retired as vice president of engineering at ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, according to the company. He immediately noticed the darkness and lack of playground equipment in the country's poverty-stricken regions, conjuring an idea to convert children's playfulness into a renewable source of electricity.

"The concept that kids have infinite energy at their disposal is nice, but not true," he said to Fast Company. "But they do have energy that can be harnessed."



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