Student Research

​CMU engineering students harvesting pedestrian energy to produce electricity

Electrical panel to provide renewable energy to power temperature display

Central Michigan University engineering students are constructing an electrical panel that will serve as a vibrational energy harvester to create renewable energy for powering a temperature display. The panel, which will be located in the entrance of CMU’s Engineering and Technology building, will generate electricity by using the vibrations of pedestrian footsteps as they walk in and out of the facility.

Assistant professor of engineering Tolga Kaya says the student-led project could lead to the development of self-sustainable electric systems to be used in settings highly populated by pedestrians like subway stations or settings that experience heavy vehicle traffic like highways.

“This project is about generating energy through human steps and using that energy to sustain a system without batteries,” Kaya said. “This is a small prototype. If this works, similar panels could be installed in train stations and other high traffic areas so that these facilities can be self-sustainable and generate their own energy.”

The panel is being constructed as part of a senior design project for engineering students with a budget of $1,500.

The panel is scheduled for completion in April. If the project is a success and the panel is self-sustainable, Kaya imagines it will remain in the entrance of the building in the future.

The project began in the fall with four students conducting the research that would make the second-semester design phase successful. For the students who created the project, there’s a genuine interest in the technology that goes beyond the requirements of the course work.

“I have always had an interest in energy harvesters like wind turbines and power dams,” said White Lake senior Robert Balma. “It’s fun to see something being powered from nothing.”

Canton senior Justin Scaparo says the project has been challenging, but the experience he’s getting has been very valuable.

“We’ve had to use a lot of our own research to be innovative in what we’re trying to do,” Scaparo said. “We’re working together, bringing together pieces of our own expertise, to develop new applications using the technology that is out there. It gives me the opportunity to bring what I learn in class to life.”