A Midland businessman has devised a way to help remote African villages generate energy for schools by harnessing the power of children playing see-saw.

Daniel Sheridan invented the Energee-Saw after completing voluntary work at a school in Kenya in 2007 while studying consumer product design at Coventry University. The see-saw harnesses the energy of youngsters playing on it and links to a generator which can be used to help light classrooms and power low wattage appliances such as radios, mp3 players and communication devices.

Daniel set up his company PlayMade Energy to prototype and develop the product and hopes to supply it in kit form with local materials used to build the main structure of the unit, reducing logistical costs and the carbon footprint of transportation.

Daniel said: “I was out doing voluntary work helping to build a classroom and teach at a school, south of Mombasa in Kenya, when I was taken by the sheer energy and enthusiasm of the children.

“They don’t have the types of electronic toys available to children in countries such as the UK.

“But they are just so genuine and keen to help – they would grab the wheelbarrows we were working with given half the chance. It was so humbling and inspiring I knew I wanted to undertake research into suitable product designs for these types of communities, who can face difficulties on a daily basis.”

On his return to England, Daniel set about investigating the opportunities and while completing his research report for his combined master’s degree he came up with the see-saw concept.

With help from Coventry University, STADCO and the Manufacturing Advisory Service – West Midlands, the young product designer has been able to take the concept from initial sketches to the brink of production and distribution.

“The current need for electricity in sub-Saharan Africa and other parts of the developing world is staggering. Without power, development can be extremely difficult. The amount of electricity generated by the Energee-Saw is very small in comparison to western consumption, but I believe it can make a real difference to schools across the globe currently without power.”

“Our initial focus will be helping to provide low wattage LED lighting.”