Watch “The Mud Has Power!” on YouTube

55 hours after setup, the life in the mud of the forest has spoken, in the blinks of an LED light.

Get the toy at

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Watch “Bruce Logan | Microbial Fuel Technologies” on YouTube

Here’s what I’m watching waiting for the MudWatt to light up. So far after 49 hours of setting up the microbial fuel cell  the volt meter is reading around 100- 210 mV, but I’m thinking Thursday it will light the LED when it reaches 350 mV. In this Microbial fuel cell there is about 2 cups of dark brown clay heavy soil from a birch/maple forest floor, and 1/2 cup of char and ashes from an old bon fire, 1/4 cup of char from a barbecue (no water has rinsed any of the alkaloids out), and another 1/4 cup of chopped up plant matter such as fresh kale, 2 week old broccoli, fresh banana peel, and stinky old prepared corn grits that I neglected to eat about a month ago…I chose these ingredients to simulate a small compost pile.

Channeling the Spirit of Saint Nicholas

I was impressed when K-12 and Michigan Great Lakes Virtual Academy gave a history lesson about the folk lore of Saint Nicholas and how he helped 3 poor sickly maidens get married by secretly tossing 3 bags of gold into their window, thus improving their lives for the better ( So now whenever I think of what I could give; I ask myself how will this gift improve their life.

Which brings me to the next thing I’m going to get my son for Christmas is a learning set that will allow him to easily learn how to create electronic circuits and use alternative energy (

I feel these are good gifts because they will give my son hands on experience and working knowledge of what it takes to make a certain amount of energy. So the next time he looks at the power consumption of a device or light he will have a fuller understanding of how much power he is burning. And it will allow his mind to clearly conceptualize how to solve energy problems.

The problems my son’s generation will not be able to avoid are: 

Acquiring fuels for transportation when rising interest rates, costs, and environmental impact weight down deregulation and cheap credit. This will also effect natural gas power plants, fertilizers and pesticides, and high torque machinery like chainsaws and tractors. Though, some machinery could have lightweight replacements like snow throwers and battery operated cutting tools, etc.

Rising international tensions, rising stock piles of strategic nuclear weapons that are meant to take out infrastructure (electric magnetic pulse from gamma rays). This worries me because all this sensitive technology like smart phones, satalites, and LED lights may suddenly be useless in an event geopolitical power struggle comes head to head. Not only that but our already aging infrastructure will require experienced workers rebuilding and rewiring some sort of system that allows for the security that lighting brings as well as basic communication, food storage (there are non electric ways around that), cooking, heating/Ventilation/Cooling, etc.

So, in keeping up with Saint Nicholas my heart knows that time spent guiding my son to complete these projects will prepare him to solve expected problems in the future. Also nothing beats hands on experience to give someone the confidence that he/she can provide valuable services and skills in a demanding market.

MudWatt: Clean Energy from Mud! – MagicalMicrobes

I’m excitingly awaiting the arrival of this gift and holiday because I can’t wait to play with dirt! Don’t tell my son, yet. I keep wanting to learn more and think of hypotheses for solving future energy solutions.

Children can put together this device that measures the amount of electrons that soil bacteria are making. A little LED light flashes and they can use a mobile device to display the exact amount of energy being produced.

The main idea is to observe different sources of food get the bacteria to make more energy (perhaps leftovers or ketchup). This enables them to watch more of the story on their device. There are also learning guides available for free on the site to learn more about the science of the bacteria. This neat toy/science project is called MudWatt.

I also found a how stuff works website that talks about how regions with grid power can use this technology to light a light, charge a cellphone, and what it would take to run a fan (I’m assuming they are extrapolating and I hypothesize actual working area might perform differently if the bacteria do not create energy as a direct function of area, there may be other limiting factors, it could be made more efficient by going vertical with container design, or there may be ways to boost productivity exponentially.) >>

Homebrew Wind Power

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Do you live next to an open field?  Are you someone who enjoys building things by scratch or learning all the what, whys and hows of a mechanical system? Wind Technology may be a great path for you. Here is a book that was recommended by my professor: Homebrew Wind Power, A Hands-on Guide to Harnessing the Wind. The Authors Dan Bartmann and Dan Fink found a Scottish wind generator (by Hugh Piggott) that could stand up to the punishing North Colorado winds. They have an amusing website called about making your own electricity from scratch.

Even if your goal is just to learn the basics about electric and wind power, this book explains all that. It goes over how to find a good place, measure the wind, and rate how much energy is expected to be had. It also goes over common problems and how to address them. You’ll learn more than you could ever expect about magnets, generators and alternators (there are diagrams galore!). Plus, you will know how the built in protection systems on the turbine work.

After the physics basics are explained, the fun part begins with safety. Be prepared for working with electric, metalworking, rare earth magnets, chemicals, and woodworking. The “Dans” show you how to create a mold for the rotor and stator (parts of the alternator). You’ll see how to make a coil winder for stator (the stationary side of the alternator). Their is a chapter on the frame which holds the blades and the alternator to the yaw, the part that helps the turbine turn. Then there is the chapter on how to build the tail. The next two chapters cover how to put together the rotor and stator. They even show how to make a rectifier, or a component that changes the alternating current to a direct current that can charge batteries. And you’ll learn how they create and assemble the blades to the rotor.

In the last part of the book the turbine is ready to be installed on a tower. This book covers everything you could ever want to know about towers: from buying a tower to making your own, to raising and lowering them for installation or maintenance. It doesn’t end there though, they go over mounting and wiring for all the components in the control system from turbine to dump load. This book is like a wind bible except you may need a NEC code book or an electrician to translate that for you.

This book gets a 10/10. Dan and Dan have a simple and hilarious writing styles that most people can appreciate. So whether you are a homeowner looking for a way to charge a battery bank, a student willing to dedicate your time and concentration to create energy, or an experienced builder/mechanic with all the tools needed you will enjoy this book. One thing to keep in mind, many skills are needed to build one of these from scratch, so it would be helpful to have a network of people to build one of these. But even if you goal is just to understand how to harness the wind, and what each component is and what they do, this book brings your through the entire process.