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