The eco-project is part of a continuing green effort for the Grayson County Middle School.
Student council members initially wanted to power all of the Christmas lights in the school's front lobby by use of solar panels. Seventh-grade teacher Rob Kaercher had a different idea though, which would allow the student body to implement the change immediately. Three stationary exercise bikes, from a previous school project were put into place, causing students to get more exercise and still be able to power the display during school hours.
Close to 100 students in Team Six take turns peddling three stationary bikes. The daily operation occurs from second through fifth period for five-minute intervals a piece.
Each of the bikes are hooked to a car alternator. When the student pedals the bike, the alternator is activated. An inverter, also attached to the bike, converts power to AC voltage in the battery. This process creates enough electricity to run several strands of lights, and two Christmas trees in the front lobby.
The green initiative has caused several people to take notice. According to Kaercher, many parents, the art club, the student council, teachers and more have become involved in the production of the bikes. Parents have volunteered their time to help weld materials to the device. Students with the art club have painted the bikes, and many others have donated materials to help the project become a reality.
"We have a total of three bikes finished," explained Kaercher, "but there are four more in production. The student council had the idea to take the Christmas display off of the grid, we just contributed the bikes. It took six weeks of planning to get the lobby Christmas lights going. It has been a really good exercise for everyone. Kids stand in line to ride the bikes."
Most of the parts for the project comes from recycled materials that people donated. One of the only costs for the project were for purchasing batteries and inverters. Funding for that came out of the school's budget.
GCMS Assistant Principal David Whitmore felt it was money well spent for the students.
"It has been a learning process for all of us," Whitmore said. "We are still working out the kinks. Each bike we build has been better than the first one. The kids really want to exercise now. They enjoy riding more than walking. Our goal is to have 10 bikes completed by the spring of next year."
Mr. K, as his students call him, said he was proud of the kids for wanting to exercise. He also talked about the students recently being spotlighted in the feature section of Louisville's Courier Journal, as well as on television.
"These are kids who won't take the garbage out at home," mentioned Kaercher, "but they can't wait to get on this bicycle and make electricity. We are very excited about the program. Several million people saw this. We couldn't believe that the team was exposed to such media coverage. We would like to one day be able to power a classroom."