Category Archives: renewable energy

Round and Round, Up and Down Brightens Up Africa

Play is power. It’s the power to generate electricity, the power to pump water. The right designs can make play double up as work for up and down, see-sawers and spinny spin roundabouters.

Empower Playgrounds Inc.

In Ghana West Africa, Empower Playgrounds are as they say, ‘lighting the world with recess’. All the tireless playground energy is captured to burn bright as sun falls into night.

For the kids it is a whirl of fun and laughter. See for yourself.

This is exactly what Ben Markham, a retired Vice-President of Engineering, ExxonMobil Research and Engineering, had in mind when he started play to around with an idea that turned out to be very illuminating.

Find more about Ben, his team, Empower Playground Inc. and their partners here. I’m sure this transformative play for light would have received the Kwame Nkrumah and E.F Schumacher seals of approval…

PlayMade Energy

The Energee-Saw, pioneered by the UK’s Daniel Sheridan, was initially tested in Uganda in 2008. A revised design was tested in Malawi. This video shows PlayMade Energy’s Energee-Saw in action PlayMadeEnergy in the world’s least electrified continent.

Kids will be able to study longer as a direct result of their own hard play. It may take a village to raise a child but apparently it takes a child to light the way.


I was introduced to the PlayPump earlier this week and thought it was a marvelous piece of utilitarian fun. That’s sure what it looks like in this 2008 report from the National Geographic Society.

It turns out that an appropriate technology that took regions of Africa, aid organizations and foundations by storm wasn’t in fact the best fit, the most efficient, or least expensive solution to help promote and create water security.

There is some difference of opinion now as to the PlayPump’s efficiency and efficacy. Many financial supporters have backed away from the project and villagers have requested a return to the handpump.

PBS did a documentary on Frontline World in June 2010. It’s available for viewing here.

Harnessing kids’ energy through play is a great idea. Let’s hope it continues and benefits the kids who are providing the fun equity.

P.S. – thanks to Neil who got me thinking about writing this post.