After living in Ghana as a missionary and experiencing first-hand the limited amount of daylight the country has (it's located on the equator), Ben Markham, a retired engineer, had an "ah-ha" moment. Seeing the limited, if any, toys the children in Ghana had, he thought it would be great if a technology could be developed that could be fun for the children to use, while at the same time produce electricity to power lights in classrooms and beyond.
So Markham approached his alma mater Brigham Young University with the project, challenging students to develop an energy-generating source that balanced fun with effectiveness. The end result? A merry-go-round that generates electricity as the children push it around, and around, and around...
The power generated from the merry-go-round is stored in a car battery that recharges portable LED lights that can be used in classrooms and homes. Many Ghanaian families have little or no light in their homes, so the hope is that by providing a light source that the children can take home with them, it will ultimately lead to greater literacy and productivity for the children.
Markham went on to establish Empower Playgrounds, Inc., and to date has installed over 30 playgrounds, all with readily available, locally sourced materials from Ghana, including recycled car parts. Markham and his team's ultimate vision is to define a process that is replicable, so that other facilities throughout the world could duplicate this same process, all the while providing a powerful educational tool for students.
Representing the fourth generation of the Ferrier Companies, Heather Ferrier Laminack functions as the marketing manager for Texas-based green home builder Ferrier Custom Homes, utilizing her passion for sustainable building practices and her first-hand experience of green building techniques.