Campus Link Newsletter
Peddling for Sustainability
This February, several men’s and women’s Little 500 bicycle racing teams went head to head in a special competition at the IU Student Recreational Sports Center (SRSC). Instead of racing around an oval track, they rode cutting-edge PlugOut stationary bikes equipped with electrical generators, competing to see which team could produce the most watts of energy. A crowd of onlookers cheered as, with each pedal, the riders created electricity, pumping power into the building’s electrical grid.
“It was a cool demonstration and a great way to introduce the technology to the student body,” said Chris Arvin, RS program director for fitness and wellness, who worked with the IU Student Association (IUSA) to research and purchase the bikes and to stage the event. “The teachable moment is how much work it really takes to generate even a small amount of electricity, and we’re hoping the bikes help enlighten students about conservation.”
Manufactured in Seattle by PlugOut, Inc., each bike can produce up to 250 watts of electricity during a typical workout–enough to power a cell phone for a week. To solicit student feedback, the bikes will be made available for general use at the SRSC. Depending on students’ level of interest and enthusiasm, IUSA, the IU Student Foundation, and Campus Recreational Sports may collaborate to replace the current crop of electricity gobbling Cyclefit stationary bikes with PlugOuts, making RS the most sustainable campus student recreational center in the country.
“I’ve never had a wattage reader or even a computer on my bike, so it was really cool to see your results while you’re working out,” said Little 500 rider and IU student Lisa Hutcheson. “We all agree that we’d definitely use [the bikes] if more were brought in.”
For IU Director of Sustainability Bill Brown, the PlugOut bikes are a powerful way to demonstrate sustainability in a hands-on manner. “Being sustainable is not a spectator sport; it takes individual effort and commitment,” he said. “The bikes are great way to teach a very visceral lesson about energy and its costs.”