Let’s make electricity (and store it)

Our previous workshop about electricity was a success, but however good the result, it can always be improved. If during the previous workshop session our main goal was to light up the the LED by moving the wheel, then this time we wanted to up our game and find out if we could also store the energy that we created for later use. Additionally, we figured that reusing the materials from previous workshop would make a lot of sense, so we asked the participants first to disassemble the electricity machine created during the previous workshop.

We reused two main components — the motor and the LED bulb, one for generating electricity and the other for converting it to light.

Image for post
Image for post
Almost ready. Photo: VIVITA Estonia

Where to store electricity?

The first thing that pops into mind when someone mentions storing electricity is obviously a battery. However, as charging batteries takes relatively long it was not an ideal solution for us — as spinning the wheel for hours to charge the battery was something nobody would be eager to do. The other option would be to use a super capacitor. In general, capacitors are used in electric circuits to reduce noise caused by voltage spikes. Additionally super capacitors can be used for storing and releasing smaller amount of electrical energy (compared to batteries). Capacitors are charged quickly, hence making them ideal for our use case.

Electricity flows

But charging is not enough. As it turns out — electricity is very restless and the motor that generates electricity happily consumes all the generated energy. To stop such energy leakage a “valve” is needed. In our case we used a diode for this. Diode is an electronic component that allows the electric current to pass it in a single direction from one to another acting as a one-way switch. With this we ensure that electricity does not flow back to the motor. There are various types of diodes, including our familiar LED (light emitting diode) that similarly only allows electric current through from single direction.

Lastly we added a switch to control when to turn on and off the light.

Image for post
Image for post
Schematics. Credits: Vivita Estonia

Finally we needed a new case where all the above would fit. For that we used wood and plywood. The gears where designed from scratch and printed with a 3D printer at VIVISTOP. To make the power distribution more effective , we used two different sized gears — the torque you put in creates a larger output torque. As a result you will create more energy turning the larger gear that you would just by turning the motor shaft.

Image for post
Image for post

The workshop — assembly

Now let’s assemble everything!
First we fastened the motor, then gears. Then soldered the positive “+” side of circuit from motor to capacitor to switch and then to LED. Then coming back soldering the negative “-” side back from LED to motor. Everyone participating seemed already pretty comfortable with soldering and there were no major issues. As a reminder — when using soldering iron it is essential to heat both the details first and then add the soldering lead. All this should happen with a few seconds to keep the details warm and lead liquid.

Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Image for post
Workshop in full motion. Photo: VIVITA Estonia

Similarly to our last session, we held it as a hybrid workshop. Some of the participants were participating in the workshop at VIVISTOP and some joined remotely over a zoom-call. All went well, until we figured the kit we provided was missing a LED light. What an unfortunate bypass. While guiding and mentoring remotely is pretty straightforward, then there is little to nothing to do in the case of missing parts. The only cure is to come over and finish the creation in our studio.

Image for post
Image for post
We got light! Photo: VIVITA Estonia

If you want to assemble the similar device yourself or improve your creation from last time, please do reach out. We’ll happily supply the missing pieces and give tips on how to best finish it. If you have any other question on the above or are interested in more details please ask away.

Text: Heikko Ellermaa
Workshop: Timo Varblas and Heikko Ellermaa

Kids and Youth Creativity Accelerator

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store