Cambridge Chronicle, MA
Nov 11 2004
Student muscle-power lights bulbs
“Come on, pedal harder. We got the incandescent bulb up to 100
degrees, enough to boil water!”
Tad Sudnick encouraged his students, but try as they might, the
compact fluorescent bulb wouldn’t break 30. Using a bicycle rigged to
generate electricity and turn on a light bulb, the students used
their muscle power to experience the difference between a 60-watt
incandescent and 15-watt compact fluorescent bulb.
“A 15-watt compact fluorescent light bulb gives off the same
amount of light as a 60-watt incandescent bulb, so where does the
rest of the energy go?” explained Elke Hodson, a volunteer from MIT’s
Students for Global Sustainability group.
As the students discovered, it becomes heat. We don’t use light
bulbs to heat our homes, so this is wasted energy. “That’s why our
parents tell us to turn off the lights to stay cool in the summer,”
said Rashaad Wharton.
The bicycle-lighting experiment was part of an Energy Project
between the Tobin School and an Armenian School in Cambridge’s sister
city, Yerevan. While the United States consumes very high levels of
electricity, Armenia has been forced to conserve due to a severely
restricted supply. Eighth-grade students are exchanging questions
over the Internet, and will compare their personal consumption and
sources of energy. To learn more, visit the Project’s Web site a
More calculations were necessary to decide which bulb was
preferred because a fluorescent bulb can cost twice as much as an
incandescent. But the expense of the extra electricity to light the
incandescent far exceeded the fluorescent bulb’s initial cost.
Compact fluorescent bulbs save between $10 and $15 per year in energy
costs, and their bulbs last five to 10 times longer than standard
Elke also explained fluorescent bulbs currently contain mercury,
a toxin. The solution to not poisoning the landfill is to recycle
fluorescent bulbs. Cambridge accepts fluorescent light bulbs and
other mercury devices for recycling at the Public Works drop-off
center, 147 Hampshire St., Tuesdays and Thursdays from 4 to 7:30 p.m.
and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.