Designed for Poverty

If you’ve been struggling for ideas in our design for poverty contest or wondered how design can help those in poverty then perhaps a little bit of inspiration is in order. Recent Coventry University graduate Daniel Sheridan has successfully developed, and deployed the “Energee-Saw” through his company PlayMade Energy. The mission of PlayMade Energy is to bring renewable electricity to schools in the developing world through the fun of play. In 2007 Daniel spent his summer volunteering in Kenya helping to build and teach at a primary school. When he returned to his degree he undertook research into developing a product that was based on the “positive aspects of an African community”. The Energee-Saw generates electricity as a by-product of play with 5-10 min of use sufficient to power a classroom for an evening. It is provided to the community in kit form and sourced from local materials. Ultimately Daniel wishes to design an entire playground of different pieces of equipment that can generate electricity.

Designer: Daniel Sheridan


  • Chris Burns says:


  • iSH says:

    Fun – The New Clean Energy.

  • Air2air says:

    Nice way to feel elite by harnessing up the Africans to our little machine. Human-powered generation is highly inefficient because the calories burned, and the work required to maintain those calories along the whole food supply chain, are vastly higher than the mechanical power sources that were adopted 100 years ago.

    But it certainly absolves their government of the responsibility to provide power to them. And somehow, I think the “inventor” found some other important things to do with his time than sit and generate power all day.

  • ThinkSolveDo says:

    I like the idea of generating power through harnessing existing motion.

    And your see-saw is creative. But we must avoid the problems this idea can create. The need for power should not force children, or anyone, to work as a beast of burden.

    While a see-saw is fun for 10 or 15 minutes it would not be fun if a child was forced to use it for 8 hours a day. Children must be allowed to play for the sake of play. And this can only be done if away from the watchful eye of an energy-consumer counting each totter.

    I think the fact you are contributing is wonderful. I offer my suggestions for improvement to counterbalance my observations above.

    My suggestion would be as follows. Bring this to the next level by harnessing wind and solar power to do the burdensome work. Then make the game one of wits. The teams can compete to see who can “passively” generate the most energy by optimizing angles of solar collectors or positions of mechanical elements. The game comes in the control of the technology through thinking instead of child labor.

    The children learn about the world instead of working as voiceless workers for other’s benefit.


  • deanween8 says:

    great job. something every designer should look up to.

  • Sylus says:

    Typical child abuse.

  • amber says:

    Oh – get a grip you lot – it’s fantastic! Everybody works in some form you elitist white middle class pratts! oh the trauma of having to play for 5 min before class in return for an education! how punishing!
    If we had your way( those with comments above ) you expect the government to supply everything- they should supply more yes
    but there’s no harm in individuals making an effort for themselves when out side assistance is not forthcoming.
    Phuc- If my kids don’t do the dishes once a week – I refuse to cook- is that child abuse?
    real child abuse is a terrible, heart breaking issue- do not falsely accuse.

  • hew says:

    I like this, I’ve seen kids in Africa, as anywhere in the world, using lots of energy playing around – football/soccer being one of the most popular with the boys. Its great to see electricity for their own benefits being created unintentionally by play. A see-saw shares effort so i dont think theres a lot of calories needed compared to some other games. If the schools this is intended for are like those I have seen there will be hundreds and hundreds of kids wanting to be the next to jump on and have a play! As long as this idea is used with lots of children there will not be an issue of labour, i’m sure people who have seen these african schools for themselves would agree – i’d like to think just fairness of who plays next so everyone gets a go! I know volunteers or donors often build playground equipment to improve the lives of underpriviliged kids and give them the opportunity to have fun, so why not make it even better by using electricity for after dark instead of bad health kerosene lamps!

  • Colin says:

    this idea is not at all new. engineers at gaviotas, colombia developed a see-saw water pump over 30 years ago…

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