Powering African Schools with Playground Toys

Dan Sheridan and his see-saw power idea for African schoolsThe BBC is running a story on a young inventor, 23-year old Daniel Sheridan, who has designed a teeter-totter (see-saw) that can be used to power school classrooms in Africa. His ultimate goal is to see a whole playground of energy-creating equipment.

“The current need for electricity in sub-Saharan Africa is staggering. Without power development is extremely difficult. The potential for this product is huge and the design could be of benefit to numerous communities in Africa and beyond.”

The idea came about after travels to East Africa, where he taught at a school and was inspired by the students. Daniel developed the see-saw power design as part of his final year at Coventry University. He has calculated that five to 10 minutes use on the see-saw could generate enough electricity to light a classroom for an evening.

Some Thoughts
What would be more interesting would be to see this idea built out with local supplies, as Daniel is going to be doing soon in Uganda. Then, with the knowledge learned there, see if it could fall into the same model of micro-entrepreneurial devices that we see with the KickStart water pumps. Speaking of which, this also reminds me of the PlayPumps idea, which also has a lot of potential.

Daniel states, “The unique selling point of this product is that it is not intended as a profit-making design.” I can only hope that he means this as profit for him. Profit making on the ground by Africans of this type of design could be crucial for its long-term success.

Author: Erik Hersman

Erik is the owner of White African, a blog about technology and Africa. He is the co-founder of Zangu, a new web and mobile phone application that he hopes will change communication in Africa. AfriGadget is another web project of his, not that he doesn't have enough of those already...

13 thoughts on “Powering African Schools with Playground Toys”

  1. Pingback: SprogBlog
  2. While reading this, PlayPumps was the very first thing that came to mind. I wonder if he was aware of them and was a partial inspiration for this design?

    I bet you could get a direct interview with him. It will certainly be fun to follow his journey and see how that first buildout will turn out. Maybe I can make a trip there to shoot video and photography of him building it 🙂 You got anyone on the ground there with the Nokia N95?

  3. thanks very much for the nice ideas and skills of geting Uganda get such nice ideas
    As l could lob for the same to be included in my project for the orphans and needy school l do wish you the best to make that work


  4. A really interesting idea with development potential. A good way to spend grant funds to establish something that is sustainable. If a locally built model can create jobs and produce an energy source that is more viable than existing such as solar and mini hydro it looks like a real opportunity.

    The storage system is the crux – eg in the play pump, lifting the water into the reservoir effectively stores the erratic energy input that is inevitable given what children do with their time.

    Can you keep us up to date on progress.

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