This entry in the Project14 Techno Toys competition is mainly to boost participation without setting the bar too high.

I don't have a lot of toys around the house that I own, but I did find one that nobody laid a claim on. I call her Sparky.


In this project I am taking a little wind-up hopping toy (Sparky) and retrofitting an LED powered by a power-scavenging circuit.

The power-scavenging transducer is a piezo disk mounted under Sparky's feet, so when she hops, the disk gets flexed and generates charge.


It is not a lot of power given the amount of energy in the 1 mm hop of a toy that weighs 18 grams, but it is enough to briefly flash an LED.

It is pretty cool that the circuit does not need a battery to drive the LED - and the whole circuit and transducer is light enough (about 1 gram) not to prevent the toy from hopping.

The circuit consists of a bridge rectifier, a capacitor, a resistor and an LED - plus the piezo disk:


The circuit components were all SMT parts, except the capacitor, to minimize weight. The construction is space-wired also to save weight.

Tip: Soldering small components like this can be pretty tricky but I stuck them on some tape to hold everything in place while I soldered the parts - it worked great.


The LED was easily visible to the naked eye although not very bright. My camera on the other hand had a lot of difficulty focusing on the chick and seeing the LED. In the video I resorted to turning off most of the lights to see if the LED would show up better. The video did capture a couple of the flashes, but not in focus and it is so dark, it is hard to see the chick.


I think I could improve the power-scavenging efficiency by ensuring optimal flexing of the disk, but the concept works even without tweaking - I didn't play with resistor or capacitor values - literally the first devices I grabbed.

Here is a video of Sparky the Power Chick:



This blog has become more popular than I expected so I figured I better see if I couldn't improve the video. I pushed my camera to its limit and cleaned up Sparky a bit - no more tape.

In the first segment of the video below I constrained Sparky so she couldn't hop out of the picture and set the camera to fixed focus. Then I removed the shackle and let her hop around, but it is still much more visible than my first video work above.



Here is a picture showing the piezo disk glued onto Sparky's feet:


And a couple more images of Sparky all wired up:



Sparky is also featured in a magnetic levitation blog.