Oregon, OSU compete to see who can generate the most electricity

Their football teams won’t meet on the field until Saturday, but another high-intensity competition between Oregon State University and the University of Oregon already has wrapped up: Wednesday was the final day in the fourth annual Energy Civil War, a weeklong battle to see which university’s students could generate the most electricity.

At OSU, the contest involved 10 Renewable Energy Revolution — or ReRev — cardio exercise machines on the second floor of the Dixon Recreation Center. They were the tools that students used to generate electricity in watts per hour.

ReRev machines are ellipticals that stand about 6 feet tall from the floor. They simulate a number of exercises for cross-training purposes, such as running and stair-climbing, and can be adjusted for speed and resistance.

The machines capture human energy during a workout and convert it into reusable energy. A system called ReCardio reroutes the energy that is being emitted and delivers it to a processing unit that converts the human power to electricity.

Each machine has a controller box that feeds back through a processor located in a room on the second floor of Dixon. Every evening at 5 p.m. since Nov. 14, Chris Gates, the web and interactive media coordinator at Dixon, checked the readings.

“Just getting on the machine helps, even if you’re on there for 30 seconds,” he said. “On some machines, the higher the resistance, the more energy you’re likely to generate.”

The competition was sponsored by the Student Sustainability Initiative, a campus organization started in 2003 to promote recycling and waste reduction at OSU.

“It started off as just a cool thing to teach students about the renewable energy happening in Dixon,” said Colette Conover, energy projects coordinator for the Student Sustainability Initiative.

“We wanted to educate students that that is what the machines do, there’s the fun aspect and we get our name out there.”

While a major goal of the Energy Civil War is promoting healthy lifestyles and energy conservation, there is another important motivation.

“We make sure we put ‘Beat Oregon’ signs on the machines,” Gates said. “It’s the best motivation.”

It hasn’t happened yet: the University of Oregon has won every Energy Civil War to date, and handicappers wouldn’t be betting on the Beavers this year, either. As of Wednesday afternoon, UO students were in the lead with 20,300 watt hours; OSU students had logged 13,300 watt hours.

According to readings by coordinators, UO held the overall lead, but OSU produced more energy on certain days, including Monday. The machines used for the competition were marked with special energy logos, and all students were invited to use them.

“We’ve gotten a lot more groups involved this year,” Conover said.

A few student-led organizations at OSU, including Women in Policy and the Japanese Student Association, “adopted” machines to concentrate their energy contribution and ensure that they remain active.

“We’ve tried a different aspect every year. Last year they tried punch cards that made students eligible for prizes,” Conover said. “The ‘adopt a machine’ idea we came up with to see if we could make sure people are always on the machine.”

Conover said she noticed from four to 10 machines in use every time she went to Dixon.

Dixon is home to 22 ReRev ellipticals that return power to the electrical grid when they are in use as part of the ReRev Kinetic Energy Project. The project is intended to create about 3,500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year, which is comparable to the electricity needed to power a small home.

“Students might not be aware that that’s what those machines do,” Conover said. “It’s cool that we create all that energy.”

Joce DeWitt can be contacted at 541-758-9510 or joce.dewitt@lee.net

Joce DeWitt is the Higher Education reporter for the Gazette-Times. She can be reached at 541-758-9510 of joce.dewitt@lee.net.

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