Thursday, April 24, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

Off the Beaten Path: It’s a wheely good idea

Da Vinci High School physics students watch as Ryan Banwarth pedals a bike to power a blender that's churning out a tasty smoothie. The students will teach the women of Sabana Grande, Nicaragua, how to make the bike-powered blender when they visit the village in June. Wayne Tilcock/Enterprise photo

By
March 14, 2011 | Leave Comment

Davis residents may not be kicking their electric blenders to the curb any time soon, but they may give it some thought after seeing what some students at Da Vinci High School have created as a way to take smoothie-making off the grid: a bicycle-powered blender.

After all, if making a delicious fruit smoothie following a bike ride sounds good, making a delicious fruit smoothie WHILE biking sounds even better.

Alas, while the streets of Davis aren’t likely to see an influx of cyclists blending smoothies any time soon, this invention will be making a difference in the lives of an impoverished Nicaraguan community seeking to make the most of renewable energy sources.

Eighteen students in Da Vinci teacher Zach Ronneberg’s physics class will travel to the village of Sabana Grande in June where they will teach a group of women, known as the Solar Women of Totogalpa, how to make the bicycle-powered blender.

For a number of years now, these women have been working with Grupo Fenix, an organization formed by students at Nicaragua’s National Engineering University, to help folks in poor rural communities make the most of energy harnessed from the sun, wind and other sources.

The women, under the guidance of Grupo Fenix and professor Susan Kinne, have been experimenting with renewable energy technologies, making and selling everything from solar panels to solar cookers and solar dryers. They’ve even started a completely-off-the-grid restaurant, which needed a way to make the smoothie drinks that are so popular there, without using traditional power sources.

Gwynn Benner of UC Davis directs the Energy Program Youth Corps and has been working with Ronneberg and his students the past couple of years, and it was Benner who put the class in touch with Kinne.

Kinne visited the class to talk to them about the solar community in Sabana Grande and asked if they could come up with a human-powered blender. This being Davis, it’s no surprise that a bicycle found its way into the mix.

“Then we just had to figure out how to convert the energy of the spinning wheel into spinning a blender,” said student Alex Walker.

The group began brainstorming in December and came up with their prototype in short order: They modified a bike by attaching gears to the wheel, so when the wheel spins, it turns the gears. The gears in turn spin the rotor on the bottom of the blender, powering it with the mechanical energy from the bike.

All along, students had to be cognizant of what materials would be available to the Nicaraguans in replicating the blender.

“The idea is to build it there with local materials,” Ronneberg noted.

In her own travels to Nicaragua, Benner checked out what was available, even bringing back one of the blenders commonly available there, so students would know what to use here. Bicycles being a common form of transportation there made that part easy.

One of the biggest hurdles students face now is the cost of traveling to Nicaragua, purchasing supplies there and paying for local labor.

They are seeking community donations and will be at the Davis Farmers Market beginning Saturday. Visitors to their booth not only will get to taste a bicycle-powered smoothie, they’ll get a chance to make one through their own pedal power.

In addition to teaching the women of Sabana Grande how to build the bicycle-powered blenders — and providing them with manuals for the process — the students also will spend time in Nicaragua teaching science to elementary school children. Benner expects the 10-day trip to be an eye-opening experience.

“This is a community with no showers, only pit toilets, dirt floors,” she noted. “It’s going to be a very different cultural experience for these students.”

They’re looking forward to it, though.

“I’ll learn a lot when I go,” said Mandy Hart, 17.

She adds that she already has learned so much, “about physics and about fundraising.”

Classmate Emma Lautz, also 17, adds that the project “has been really fun.”

“I like how easily we can use our own power and energy to make something really useful,” she said. “I’m excited about making an impact on someone’s life. It will humble a lot of us.”

For more information about the project, visit http://www.teamblend.org.

Anne Ternus-Bellamy

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | No comments

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Will city move forward on public power review?

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Attorneys at odds over Woodland infant’s death

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    4-H members prepare for Spring Show

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

    Food insecurity remains an issue for many county residents

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1

     
     
     
    Conference puts focus on Arab studies

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Youth sports in focus on radio program

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Rummage sale will benefit preschool

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Concert benefits South Korea exchange

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis honors ‘green’ citizens

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Water rate assistance bill advances

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Program explores STEM careers for girls

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Embroiderers plan a hands-on project

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Central Park Gardens to host Volunteer Orientation Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5 | Gallery

    Volkssporting Club plans North Davis walks

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

     
    Hotel/conference center info meeting set

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

    Cycle de Mayo benefits Center for Families

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A8

     
    Author to read ‘The Cat Who Chose to Dream’

    By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A12

    .

    Forum

    Things are turning sour

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    The high cost of employment

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    High-five to Union Bank

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Broken sprinklers waste water

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Three more administrators?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Neustadt has experience for the job

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Here’s a plan to save big on employee costs

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Davis is fair, thoughtful

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Ortiz is the right choice for Yolo

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    DHS tracksters sweep another DVC meet

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Another DVC blowout for DHS girls soccer

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Young reinvents his game to help Aggies improve on the diamond

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    DHS boys shuffle the deck to beat Cards

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    DHS/Franklin II is a close loss for Devil softballers

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Baseball roundup: Giants slam Rockies in the 11th

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    UCD roundup: Aggies lose a softball game at Pacific

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

    Jahn jumps to Sacramento Republic FC

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B8

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

     
    Bach Soloists wrap up season on April 28

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A11

    Congressional art competition open to high school students

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Emerson, Da Vinci to present ‘Once Upon a Mattress’

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    Winters Plein Air Festival begins Friday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 24, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6