SPARTA, NJ — They may have taken the long route but the Sparta High School student in Andrew Bickerton’s honors physics classes but they have turned discarded exercise bicycles into charging stations. 

“We call these bike systems ‘Pedal Powered Cell Phones Charging Station,’” Bickerton said.

Last year the school received a grant from JCP&L for the project. In addition to learning lessons in practical application of scientific concepts Bickerton and former student John Williamson, together with the students had to learn lessons of patience.  

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“Additional parts had to be ordered and they didn’t come in until this year,” Bickerton said.

Last year at this time the students had covered the concepts of electricity simple circuits and electromagnetism, Bickerton said. The honors students decided to tackle a “real world project, retrofitting some old and broken exercise bikes” converting them into charging stations.

The bikes can be used to charge cellphones using the energy created when the bike is ridden. They also added a household outlet to one of the bikes so it can run nearly anything that runs on household current, according to Bickerton.

“Energy conversion is a key concept in the recently adopted Next Generation Science Standards and I'm excited to observe the students see the connection of theoretical concepts to real word applications,” Bickerton said.  

The first phase of the project was to create the design and mount the charging system to “the broken exercise bikes found in a closet in the school annex storage closet,” Bickerton said. They are still working on the second phase which will add a charging system on a functioning exercise bike in the cardio room.

The expectation is to have the bikes in the cardio room that are used by physical education classes and sports teams converted. They will be able to charge cellphones, Chromebooks, iPads, tablets and even laptop computers while exercising, Bickerton explained.

“One goal of the project was to expose the students to the crossover concepts found in chemistry, physics, physical education and health classes,” Bickerton said.

The physics teacher explained the crossover scientific concepts that become evident in the project; “the students see the energy flow from stored energy in foods and body fat via biochemical reactions, burning calories, to mechanical energy, the physical movement of the exercise equipment, the generator converting the mechanical energy to electrical energy which is converted back to potential energy in the cellphone battery.”

 The plan it to have the bikes set up in the cafeteria for students to charge their phones during lunch or study halls. They hope to “get a couple of more bikes” completed by the end of this year, according to Bickerton.

“The final goal is to promote exercise and good health,” Bickerton said.