PROVO, Utah – Students at Utah's Brigham Young University have built a merry-go-round that generates electricity, an invention that could keep the lights on at schools in poor countries.
"This has the potential to benefit a lot of people in a way that they might not otherwise receive help," said Geoff Germane, a faculty adviser.
A retired engineer, Ben Markham, got the idea while serving a mission in Ghana for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
"Some of the schoolhouses we saw there were just uncomfortable and dark," Markham told the Deseret Morning News. "It's just not conducive to learning."
He has formed a nonprofit organization with the hope of building the merry-go-rounds and other playground equipment. Future engineering classes at BYU will work on swing systems and zip lines that generate electricity.
The biggest challenge was to match the speed of the merry-go-round, which is about 10 revolutions per minute, to the speed required by the generator, at least 500 rpm.
The six-student team had to design their own transmission, using a truck axle and gear wheels from an average car — a design based on materials readily available in Ghana.
Markham hopes to test the merry-go-round in Ghana in fall.