Green Machines

Campus Issues: Retrofitting exercise machines to generate power furthers the campus's green agenda and applies student knowledge.

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Even in unfavorable economic years, certain expenses are worth their weight in gold. And though this campus may be cutting back in many areas, student engagement and innovation are valuable commodities-and ought to be treated as such.

One relevant example of the ingenuity of our student body is a project proposed by the mechanical engineering department to retrofit exercise machines in the Recreational Sports Facility (RSF), allowing users to generate power while they work out.

According to an abstract by a mechanical engineering professor and graduate student involved in the project, an individual would be able to generate about 100 watts while exercising, and the retrofitted machines would generate enough kilowatts per year to power a small house. Such an energy-saving idea fits in perfectly with Berkeley's reputation as a leader in all things green. Not only does it further energy conservation in general by finding a new, innovative way to be environmentally friendly, but it also provides a practical benefit.

The project admittedly has some drawbacks. The relatively high sticker price of at least $10,000 would not be recovered for about 15 years, and the power supplied by the machines would compose fewer than 1 percent of the RSF's energy needs.

Despite these logical concerns, we encourage RSF officials to support the efforts of the mechanical engineering department and move forward with the project. In the context of the campus's overall budget, $10,000 is not an over-the-top sum for this kind of project. And when compared to certain unreasonable campus expenditures (for example, the cost incurred to deal with the tree sit or the recall of ASUC Senator John Moghtader), spending money to reward students and give them a real-world outlet to apply their knowledge is well worth the cost.

If the project does receive the required funding and reach completion, we hope it serves as a good precedent for research conducted by students and applied in a way that benefits the campus and other students in the process.






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