Playworld & Empower Playgrounds in Ghana

Electricity-Generating Playground Equipment Lights Villages, Helps Students Learn

Playworld Systems has partnered with Empower Playgrounds, Inc., a non-profit organization that provides renewable energy to villages in Ghana through electricity-generating play­ground equipment and smart LED lanterns. By lending its research and development resources, materials and facilities, Playworld Systems is helping Empower Playgrounds further its mission by accelerating production of the play equipment – merry-go-rounds known as ”whirls” – that generate power while the kids play during the day for portable lanterns that light evening activities at home.

Ben Markham, a retired ExxonMobil engineer from Utah, founded Empower Playgrounds in 2007 after spending time in Ghana as a missionary. He observed that the schoolchildren lacked two important things: play equipment and light. The latter presents a major barrier to their education, as most children in Ghana work on family farms immediately after school and have no light for schoolwork or reading once the sun goes down.

Approximately 3,000 children have access to the whirls, which have been installed by Empower Playgrounds in the most remote and deprived villages. This week, Markham and Miller are in Ghana to install two prototypes of the new whirls manufactured by Playworld Systems. By 2012, they plan to make the power-generating systems available to developing nations across the globe.

“Enabling students to study and read at night is a life-changing development for families living in isolated areas of Ghana,” said Markham. “Working with Playworld Systems to develop and install new whirls allows Empower to bring light to more villages in Ghana and beyond at a much faster rate than we would have been able to on our own.”

Empower Playgrounds provides the whirls and lanterns at no cost to rural villages. Once the equipment is installed, power is produced as the kids play. The lanterns are a specially modified camping lantern developed for Empower Playgrounds by Energizer Battery, Inc.  These rechargeable lanterns can operate 40 hours at full power before needing to be recharged. The Empower Playgrounds system also includes a hands-on science kit that enables local educators to also use the whirls as learning opportunities for their students.

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