Convert Your Bicycle
Pedal Power Tools
Tell a Friend
This example Lesson Plan structures a class around the
construction and understanding of the Pedal Powered
Prime Mover. The Subjects list shows how a wide range
of topics can be taught from this one core activity.
Follow the link to the plans, and use the Questions
link at the bottom of the Plans page to request
An Interesting Class For All
- Grade Level
The PPPM can be completely assembled by mechanically-inclined
students in grades 9 and above. Younger students will need more
supervision, especially when working with power tools.
It is possible to pre-assemble the more complex parts of the PPPM, leaving
the students with simple assembly activities. This approach works well if
tools are not readily available, time is short, student capabilities are
insufficient, or if the focus of the activity is post-assembly use and
measurement of the PPPM inputs and outputs.
Properties of materials, including wood,
steel, stainless steel, polyurethane,
copper wire, and ball-bearings
Physics, including levers, "gear" ratios,
coefficients of friction, work, power,
efficiency, torque, measurement techniques,
center of mass, balance, Laws of Thermodynamics
Geometry, including diameters and circumferences
of circles, tangents, locating the center
of a circle, SSS calculations,
calculating heights of perpendiculars
given lengths of enclosing triangle sides,
and an understanding of intersecting
line segments and angles as they pivot
around the point of intersection.
Electronics, including basic DC circuitry,
properties of DC motors and generators,
diodes, magnets, electrical resistance,
wire sizes and power carrying capabilities,
Amps, Volts, Watts, Watt-hours, Joules
There is an opportunity to experiment with different
circuit combinations using the online
Human physiology and power output, including
peak vs. sustained output, body temperature
regulation, issues with different sizes
and shapes of Human bodies, conditioning levels
and how they affect power output, pulse rates,
breathing rates, Oxygen debt, changes in
conditioning with exercise, fatigue
Here is an example of the kinds of experiments
that can be performed with a completed PPPM:
- Time Required
It takes 8-24 hours to assemble a PPPM, depending on many
things, including students' expertise, tools used, and how
"finished" the final version needs to be. Painting
the unit takes extra time, for example.
Eight one hour sessions with well-executed planning and
supervision would result in a unit that could generate
measurable electricity. Additional sessions would extend the PPPM
to power devices, pump water, or serve as a learning foundation
for physiology and energy topics.
Organization is extremely important. All parts must be purchased,
all tools must be present, appropriate safety gear must be
available, and the organization of the assembly team should be
decided before the activity begins.
A completed PPPM may be easily disassembled to any level and subsequently
used as the basis for an accelerated course. This approach can avoid "dead
spots" caused by more difficult assembly steps, and it can also be used to
bypass steps not relevant to the course goals.
Students will assemble a Pedal Powered Prime Mover from plans
using commonly available parts. During the process, students will
learn the role, function, material, and science behind each part.
The completed PPPM will serve to convert Human effort into
quantifiable forms of energy, both electrical and mechanical.
The plans (available through the link at the top left corner
of this page) list all materials and tools.
Some uncommon tools, such as
certain sizes of drill bits, one or more of the required files,
and possibly a battery terminal puller, may
need to be purchased. These are all inexpensive
tools. (Typically less than $10 each.)
- Skills Students Will Require
This project is roughly as difficult as assembling
a bicycle from parts. There is nothing terribly
difficult, but certain steps definitely
require more attentuion and skill than others.
In situations where the students' expertise is
insufficient to accomplish a step, which will rarely
happen, a bicycle shop or a machine shop can
be consulted for assistance with that step.
Even if you plan on building a single PPPM, an
entire team may be organized to achieve the result.
The perfect "assembly" team would have:
- Simple woodworking experience (drilling,
sanding, rough carving.)
- Simple electronics experience (soldering,
use of a multimeter, DC circuit knowledge.)
- Mechanical assembly experience (drilling
holes in metal, bolting things together,
screwing water pipe together.)
- Simple understanding of physiology and related facts,
such as common inseam measurements, arm length, and
comfortable bicycle riding postures.
- Esthetic experience (making rough, hand-built
items look finished, and of course visually appealing.)
The level of content detail for each
of the subjects may be easily adjusted according
to grade level or student interest. Virtually
every step of the assembly could become the basis for
extended material properties or physical science research.
There is a "why" behind every part, configuration, and assembly
And imagine the fun of conducting pedal power experiments like this!
In other words, the PPPM construction activity will be a
watershed of potential learning.
Finished PPPMs inspire learning independent of the
construction process. Consider donating or selling
finished units at cost to local NGOs offering
energy education or demonstrations. The donation of the device,
and the knowledge of how it would be used would be part of the
A complete lesson plan designed for a converted bicycle can be found
Order the plans,
and plan your Pedal Powered Prime Mover Power Learning class today!