Pedal Power Physics (Funded by the Institute of Physics)

Project aims:

The aim of the project was to engage audiences in Einstein's Garden at the Green Man Festival with the physics of pedal power.


To spark people's curiosity about how pedal power works.

To raise awareness of the physics involved in pedal power.

To give people the tools to continue their learning about the physics of pedal power after the festival.

To develop the communication and engagement skills of physics students.

Summary of activity:

This project engaged audiences in Einstein’s Garden at the Green Man Festival with the physics of pedal power, sparking people’s curiosity about this fun, interactive and social source of renewable energy.

The Green Man Festival took place on 20th-22nd August 2010 at Glanusk Park in the Brecon Beacons in Wales and was attended by 18,000 people. Einstein’s Garden is an area of the festival that engages people with science and nature in fun, quirky and unexpected ways, attracting adult, young adult and family audiences. This project targeted all three of these groups.

Pedal Power Physics was a key aspect of Einstein’s Garden. Four bicycles were used to power one of the area’s main venues that was in constant use and there were pedal power installations around the garden including phone charging, lighting and kinetic sculptures. To engage people with the physics of pedal power there were four trained explainers who had a constant presence by the pedal powered installations. In addition to these drop in activities there was one Pedal Power Workshop programmed each day for adults and young adults.

The key physics content was the principle of energy conservation and the conversion of energy into different forms. Explainers described the conversion processes taking place in the pedal power activity and demonstrated how the principle of electromagnetic induction leads to electricity generation. They tailored the detail and complexity of the content for different audience groups.

Evaluation approach:

The project was evaluated against the aim and objectives through observational evaluation and reports written by the four explainers.

What went well:

1. It was felt that overall the project was very successful and effectively engaged different age groups, families and individuals. Pedal power was a great way to get people interested in practical, everyday examples of physics at work.

2. The workshops were very successful with a high level of engagement from audience members. Many participants contributed to the workshop by asking questions and everyone took a sticker at the end of the workshop with a web link to further online resources. Audience members commented that they found the workshop enjoyable and that the facilitators had made the science accessible.

3. Explainers found the experience of pitching the science at different aged audience members and altering the complexity of their explanations a positively challenging experience and a skill that they developed and improved through working on the project.

What was learned:

1. The pedal power phone charging stand turned out to be the perfect way to engage audiences with the physics of pedal power. This was partly because of the obvious incentive for people of being able to charge their mobile phones in an environment where they lacked access to electricity. However it was also because people were peddling themselves to generate the energy and they could physically see the different stages of the process, therefore the physics became real, relevant and tangible to them.

Top tips and advice for others

1. Use good design and visual communication to capture your audience's attention. For this project the phone charging stand was designed to look visually intriguing with the wires and connections to the phones clearly visible through a specially designed wooden box with a Perspex front. On the wall behind the stand a collection of colourful signs were hung, painted with questions designed to stimulate people's curiosity.

About this project



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About the contributor

Ellen Dowell
Green Man Festival

I am the manager and curator of Einstein's Garden, the science, nature and environment area of the Green Man Festival.…

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