These Kids Power Their School by Running Up and Down the Hallway

Pavegen tiles installed in the floor harness the kinetic energy from foot traffic and convert it to electricity.
Students at Simon Langton Grammar School help light up their hallways. (Photo:
Jan 4, 2014· 1 MIN READ
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades has previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and a medical writer.

In an effort to make sustainable technology more useful, some kids are literally stomping all over it.

The Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys outside London is harvesting kinetic energy from foot traffic to power its corridors and classrooms.

Twenty-four energy-harvesting tiles, covering about 16 feet, were installed in a hallway in the school last September, allowing students to help create clean, off-the-grid power by walking, running, and sometimes jumping all over the floor.

Each step creates between one and seven watts, depending on the strength of the footfall. The students' energy is used to help power on lights and interactive learning displays, as well as charge their electronics.

The tiles, which are made partially from recycled rubber, are the creation of Laurence Kemball-Cooke, founder of the sustainability start-up Pavegen. The company has installed the tiles at a dozen other local schools, with the next installation slated for the Riverdale Country School in New York this month.

Kemball-Cooke told FastCoExist that so far, the tiles have had one unintended side effect for students. "We realized that we made energy saving fun," he said. "And we never meant to do that."

Pavegen tiles have been tested in a London underground station during the 2012 Olympics and at a marathon track in Paris; their installation in schools allows students to put into action science lessons they've learned in their classrooms.

Kemball-Cooke has hopes that his tile system is scalable, eventually becoming a source of energy for city street lights and subway stations. That could have cost-saving benefits for urban areas.

In U.S. cities, for instance, street lights are generally the biggest or second-biggest energy demand, and keeping them illuminated can cost up to half of a city's energy budget.

Cities and small townships in the U.K. face similar issues. In Cambridge, park paths lit by glow-in-the-dark paint are being tested as a replacement for street lights to cut down on energy bills. But while glow-in-the-dark paint can save energy, it can't create it as Pavegen tiles do.

Until the system can be put into large-scale applications, however, the students of Simon Langton Grammar School seem more than happy to take advantage of the fact that running through their hallways is no longer frowned on but encouraged.