The projects at Maker Faire always run the gamut, with a healthy balance between the whimsical and the practical. Maker Faire Detroit, taking place this weekend, July 28 and 29, at The Henry Ford, is no exception. Last week we got a window into the Great American Horn Machine, mobile platform of awesome whimsy, and this week we chat with Hubert Gillespie, whose contribution to the field of alternative energy comes in the form of the practical Kinetic Push Mill.
1. What inspired you to make the Kinetic Push Mill and how long did it take to build?
The Push Mill is part of a larger vision of a “Generator Gym” concept where a workout will produce appreciable amounts of electricity as an output. This piece of equipment was the most direct example we could think of that demonstrated the increased output of a team working together creating energy. It took us about six months to design the individual pieces making up the unit, six months to assemble, and another six months of testing and modifications to get to this point.
2. Describe the Mill components and how it works.
The Mill is made up of three basic operating components: the turnstile, the gearbox, and the generator head. Eight to 16 individuals push together on eight arms extending from the turnstile. The turnstile transfers this kinetic energy into the gearbox, giving output of 1800rpm to the generator head, creating 220V AC. The generator is 10kW, and we are still testing the full output we can achieve with this device.
3. Have you made other kinetic projects in the past? What’s the biggest challenge in building something kinetic?
This was the first kinetic project we have attempted so far. We have some other ideas in mind, but want to get this one further down the development path before we begin on the next one.
4. You brought the Mill to Maker Faire Detroit last year. What types of reactions did you receive?
We had a great reception at last year’s Maker Faire. It was amazing how drawn to this the kids were, to grab onto an arm and start pushing, and adults as well were curious about how the unit worked and how it could tie into a bigger vision of energy creation. We were honored to receive recognition from the event organizers for our exhibit.
5. What kinds of things have you powered with the Mill?
We have used the Mill to power battery chargers, lighting, air compressors, and various power tools. The battery chargers are utilized to store energy in common car batteries, which are then attached to inverters to run any 110V household electric devices.
6. Tell us about yourself. How did you get started making things and who are your inspirations?
I’m married, 46 years old, and am a residential builder by trade, which is my day job. I see what I think to be problems with obvious potential solutions, and like to try to create the pieces with my team to prove out these concepts. I am surrounded on this project with a great team of thinkers and makers who enjoy the challenge as much as I do.
7. What’s your favorite tool?
My favorite tool is my new 18V cordless drill with lithium ion batteries. It’s half the weight and twice as powerful as my old one.
8. What advice would you give to the young makers out there just getting started?
My advice to young makers is to expect to test to failure and make many repairs and modifications before you are happy with the results. Don’t give up or get discouraged — it’s part of the process. You have to break it to make it better.
9. What do you love most about Detroit?
There is no other city like Detroit for makers. We are located in a region that has so much talent in design, engineering, and manufacturing capabilities. I don’t believe it can be matched anywhere. There is also a spirit of “never give up” here that helps fuel these projects through to completion.