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Student-designed bicycle generators to power Ecochella lineup

(Jose Ubeda/Daily Bruin senior staff)

By Amy Char

May 9, 2014 12:00 a.m.

Students will pedal strenuously over the course of almost five hours today, gearing up to power the second annual Ecochella.
(Angie Wang/Daily Bruin)
The Ecochella directors and committee said they took into account how energetic this year's musicians were because they wanted volunteers to stay motivated.
Ecochella, a bike-powered concert that stresses sustainability, will take place today at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center. The concert is presented by E3: Ecology, Economy, Equity. This year, Ecochella will feature new additions such as a better-known headlining band, bike generators designed by students and a new layout.

The Ecochella directors introduced a new audition process for bands. Megan Vyenielo, Ecochella music and media director and a fourth-year environmental science student, said more than 30 bands applied this year and a board of judges selected the bands, ranging from student folk and soul band The Street Hearts to Burbank-based alternative band Attic Empire.

“In the end, we ended up with a really solid lineup,” Vyenielo said. “I’m really excited that we have a lot of student bands. UCLA really showed up well in auditions.”

Since the concert will be powered by volunteers, Vyenielo said the board took into account how energetic the musicians were because they wanted the pedalers to stay motivated.

With a larger portion of the budget set aside for the headliner, Vyenielo said the board members were drawn toward local L.A. musicians. She said the headliner, indie rock and electronic band PAPA, was one of the biggest bands within the budget.

“We’re not trying to gain any profit,” Vyenielo said. “In the end, it’s not about who the headliner was. It’s about promoting sustainability. … We had to warn them: ‘This is powered by bikes. If people stop biking, the music stops. You have to be prepared and know it’s not your average show.’”

Last year, an organization named Rock the Bike provided the bicycles to power Ecochella. While this year’s event will still feature three to five rented bicycles, a new engineering competition emphasizes student-designed bicycle generators as an energy source.

Audrey Vinant-Tang, Ecochella engineering and artistic director and a fourth-year environmental science student, said there will be seven student-designed bicycle generators. Tira Okamoto, Ecochella finance and logistics director and a second-year world arts and cultures and international development studies student, described the bicycles as UCLA community bikes, as a majority of them were borrowed from the UCLA Bike Shop.

“This year was difficult because it was the first year (of the competition), so we had to acquire a lot of the parts,” Vinant-Tang said. “But next year we hope to further reduce, reuse, recycle. We should be able to break apart the bikes and use them for next year so it’s sustainable.”

Vinant-Tang said the directors were surprised by the number of submissions they received because they had only promoted the event through engineering listservs. Twenty-seven teams signed up during the first round of the competition in winter quarter, but Vinant-Tang said the directors only wanted to build a maximum of 10 bikes. There were three rounds of the competition.

“We wanted to reach out to other people, especially other people who like to build things and who would be interested in making a bicycle generator,” Vinant-Tang said. “(They) can realize that it’s not really that difficult to produce your own energy. You can produce whatever you want in your own house ultimately with the skills you (have) learned.”

Creativity was a selection criterion. Some features of the bikes include candy machines that will dispense a treat for the biker once they reach a certain voltage, cell phone chargers and a green-yellow-red light system to indicate the biker’s speed range. Vinant-Tang said the features are geared to make bikers feel comfortable and more involved in the energy production process.

To try to accommodate more people, seating for this year’s Ecochella will be held on the field at Sunset Canyon Recreation Center instead of the amphitheater, as was the case last year, Okamoto said. The stage will be near the amphitheater, facing the field.

In the future, UCLA alumna and Ecochella founder Rachel Woods-Robinson said she wants to incorporate more educational aspects, ranging from a research table explaining renewable energy and how students can get involved to an activist who will speak to the audience between sets to remind them about Ecochella’s goal.

“Ecochella is a sustainability event first,” Vyenielo said. “And then a music festival next.”

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Amy Char
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