How many people does it take to launch the space shuttle? The answer is 84,162,203, all of them taking a single step in a Crowd Farming system developed by MIT students James Graham and Thaddeus Jusczyk. Together, they have proposed the creation of a people powered power plant (an idea similar to human-powered gyms, and sustainable dance clubs), in which people would be generating energy by simple act of walking and moving around.
The Crowd Farm works by turning mechanical energy into electricity. In this proposal, the weight of a person is translated to tiled blocks which be slightly pressed down as people walk past them. A generator embedded inside them would take that small vertical movement and translate it into energy. To prove that their concept works, they created a small stool which when sat on, would power four small LED lights inside it.
Their proposal won first place in a competition held at the Holcim Forum 2007, which focused on the theme of urban competition. Their proposal for the competition involved modelling a train station in Torino, Italy. In it, they succesfully showed the feasibility of their proposal to power large spaces by the movement of large amounts of people. This particular proposal also showed that this system could be used in large events, such as a concert. As more people arrive to the concert, more energy is available to pump out the sound from the speakers. Granted this technology is still years away from being feasible, but some day in the future, that one small step for man, could have been powered by 84 million of us.