Each Step on Smart Hallway Helps Power School

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They might look a little like Hogwarts students, but the boys at Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury don’t need magic to generate enough electricity to turn on the hallway lights. Instead, their footsteps landing on energy-harvesting tiles can do the trick.

The tiles lining a long hallway at this U.K. school came from the London-based company Pavegen Systems, which specializes in technology that converts energy from footfalls into electricity. The tiles went down at the school in September for the company’s largest education sector installation to date, according to its case study.

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You might remember Pavegen from their rubber tile installation at the Paris Marathon finish line last spring, which I wrote about right before the Boston Marathon took place. Since then, the company has found a warm reception in a dozen schools, where students relish the chance to stomp around and instructors can use the tiles as a teaching opportunity.

When the boys at Simon Langton walk on the tiles, their footsteps prompt energy data to be displayed back to them in real time on an LED screen, and they can also use that energy generated to power their own projects and charge devices, Sydney Brownstone reported for Co.Exist. They’d have to do a lot of walking first, though.

The main limitation to Pavegen’s technology is that it generates only a few watts per footstep, depending on how hard someone is walking. That translates to about 30 seconds of light for a streetlamp with an LED, Brownstone pointed out.

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Next, the company is planning to install the tiles this month at a private prep school in New Jersey. Pavegen inventor Laurence Kemball-Cook also told Co.Exist that they want to bring the price per tile down in cost so it’s as affordable as linoleum. Last year the tiles were running about $76 apiece.

Despite the challenges, I still like the micro-power idea behind Pavegen and applaud the way the displays show what’s going on as people cross the tiles. That visualization is what sticks with students. When the hallway lights tied to the tiles in the school dim, it’s time to get stomping again. And if that fails, maybe try “lumos!”

Photo: Students at the Simon Langton School for boys in the UK walk on energy-harvesting tiles. Credit: Pavegen.

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