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March 01, 2013

Knowledge is Power: University Students Compete in 'Kilowatt Throwdown'



You’ve heard of gym rats? Students at Tennessee Tech University (TTU) in Cookeville, Tennessee, and at Chapman University in Orange (News - Alert), California, have become more like  “gym hamsters” for a month—continually using their on-campus fitness equipment in a concentrated, all-out effort to  win the first-ever Kilowatt Throwdown between the two schools and to generate their own electricity for the grid.

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Specifically, they are using “pods” of SportsArt Fitness Green System gym equipment—the G872 Elliptical, G57 2r Recumbent Cycle and G572u Upright Cycle—as well as a GSI-2000 inverter, connected to a 220-volt power supply. Once the students begin exercising, power is generated and fed back into the grid to offset other energy consumption at each facility.

The Kilowatt Throwdown, organized by Woodinville, Washington-based SportsArt Fitness, runs from February 15 through March 15. The winning school will receive a $7,000 treadmill from SportsArt Fitness. In addition, EcoFit – a separate company with headquarters in Victoria BC, Canada that provides monitoring equipment—will award the top exercisers with separate awards from Best Buy (News - Alert) and Footlocker.  

According to SportsArt Fitness, the green cardio equipment has many advantages over standard machines. The company states, “This is much more efficient than battery storage systems; which are expensive, environmentally harmful, take up space, and require processing that wastes power. With the Green System, the power produced via exercise is immediately fed back into the grid to be consumed by other electronic devices.”The energy output contest is handicapped to adjust for the number of Green System machines that can be accommodated at each school. TTU has 17 pieces of equipment and Chapman University has 10.

The Green Room

TTU just opened what it is calling its “Green Room” for the challenge on January 10. It is housed in the Fitness Center on campus—an 80,000 square foot facility that opened in 1991. The facility was built and is maintained by using a portion of student access fees, as well as revenue generated from products, services and programs for students, faculty/staff and graduates of Tennessee Tech University.

TTU's community already is committed to green initiatives. In 2005, students voted for a sustainable campus fee of $8 per undergraduate per semester. This generates hundreds of thousands of dollars that are strategically spent each year on projects to make the campus greener. A sustainability committee solicits proposals each year and the campus has a lot of input in what improvements are made.

Abbe Jaffe, fitness coordinator for TTU, told Green Technology World that she is getting the word out about the contest in several ways, including the use of social media. “Word of mouth seems to be our biggest motivator on campus right now. We had a grand opening at the beginning of January and since then, have been posting updates and information on our Facebook (News - Alert) page. We also have a large banner in our main lobby displaying the Challenge results, which we update each day. Members and students who haven’t discovered the Green Room yet are curious enough about the challenge that they venture upstairs to check it out and end up competing.”

Jaffe explained that the Green Room is open to everyone, for long hours, every day of the week. “There are a number of student athletes that join us throughout the day here at the Fit [the fitness center], but we don’t target them specifically. We encourage each and every person that walks through our front door to help us in our effort to go green,” she said.

“Awareness is a huge part of it, but it’s us doing what we can to aid that,” Suzann Hensley, assistant director for Campus Recreation, said. “We use a lot of electricity in the fitness center and any time that we can do something that reduces that, that’s what we need to do. This equipment was available to us, and we thought, ‘Why not?’”

Small but Strong 

At Chapman, the fitness center is open 24/7. Mackenzie Crigger, Chapman’s energy conservation and sustainability manager, told Green Technology World that they are getting participation from anyone—from students to staff—who walks through the door.

“We don’t really solicit people for this program. The gym is open to all of the campus community,” she stated, adding, “We hope to be the winning campus and earn Chapman another treadmill from SportsArt, the manufacturer of the fitness equipment and sponsor of the contest.”

Getting to Know U

While the two schools have not had a relationship to date, Jaffe told Green Technology World, “To be honest, I Goggled Chapman University to check it out when I heard who we were competing with. I am hoping that we can create a relationship that is mutually beneficial and friendly. I think it important to stay connected to those in the university setting who are also trying to educate students about the ways they can make a difference in their world. It only takes a few people to start a revolution and I believe that TTU and Chapman are at the forefront of a ‘green revolution’ in the fitness industry.”

May the most “energetic” school win!




Edited by Brooke Neuman
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