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Thursday, January 20,2011

A bicycle built for fondue

By Megan R. Moseley
Photo Credits: Maddie McGarvey
Photo Caption: Aurora Santiago-Flores, right, watches as Ohio University student Kendrick Davis uses an old exercise bike to mill grain at UCM in Athens. The bike, built by Eric Cornwell, mills grains that are used for cooking in the weekly free meals off ered by UCM.
United Campus Ministry has a new way of cooking the weekly free meals it offers the community.

Walk into UCM on any Thursday at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday at 1 p.m. and expect to see a volunteer on a workout bicycle. The machine, however, is not used as a way to burn a few calories, but instead has become an addition to UCM’s “greener” cooking techniques.

The Cornwell Milling Machine, named after designer Eric Cornwell, is used to mill grain for the meals. The “bikemill” was constructed with an old workout bike brought in by UCM volunteer Shannon Stewart, and was combined with a mill.

Stewart has been a volunteer at UCM: The Center for Spiritual Growth and Social Justice for the past few years. She said she was originally attracted to UCM because it’s focused on bettering Athens holistically. Although the North College Street center is known for its good service and laid-back atmosphere, it’s not a particularly fancy place.

When you walk into the UCM kitchen, you won’t notice anything special. They have the basic necessities of a kitchen, and lack a washer and dryer or any state-of-the-art devices. When asked how they would improve the conditions of UCM, Stuart said she wouldn’t recommend getting a new dishwasher or new silverware; in fact, the only things she could think of would be solar panels.

That’s why the only addition to this environmentally conscious kitchen has been the unique milling contraption.

Cornwell said development of the bikemill was surprisingly easy. “There’s nothing really technical about it,” he said.

The basic construction may have been easy to make, but its influence, Stewart said, is substantial. In 15 minutes, this use of green energy creates enough grain to cook with for an entire day.

“It’s actually more nutritious to make your grain this way. It’s simple, it’s lightweight, and it’s perfect,” she said.

Stewart approached Cornwell with the idea last summer after she received a $2,500 anonymous grant for UCM’s use. After receiving the grant and hearing about bikemills during a lecture at Ohio University, Stewart said she knew she wanted to use that money to help UCM make progress environmentally.

At first she looked online to purchase various products but then took the idea to bike guru Cornwell, who had seen similar contraptions.

“I’ve seen Snowville Creamery’s pedal-drive ice-cream maker, and other bikes that provide energy. It didn’t really require much research on my part,“ he said.

Cornwell took between 10 to 15 hours of work to complete his invention. Stewart then tried out the Cornwell Milling Machine at one of UCM’s Thursday dinners. She said she’s impressed with the end result, and is a loyal supporter of making grain by foot.

Cornwell said he’s pleased with the contraption as well, and hopes that it’s just another way to show people how to use alternative energy.

“It allows people to see human power as a viable source of machinery for doing ordinary tasks that we give electricity a job of doing,” he said.

Cornwell’s milling bike provided inspiration for a group of OU engineering students known as Appalachian Human Power. The students are putting together a machine for the Athens Farmers Market. The design will power a coffee grinder and a blender, and project member Ben Chovan said they plan to have the bike completed by spring.

“We got the idea when we talked to a local farmer who is really into sustainable energy,” he said. “ He had been running appliances through his car battery, and wanted a greener way of doing it. That’s when we got the idea for a bicycle.”

With six members on the senior design team, Chovan and his fellow engineering classmates have been working on kinks with their project and viewing similar prototypes such as Cornwell’s.


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