This guest blog was originally posted on the Julie's Bicycle website. 

One of the things we firmly believe in is the power of the artistic community to create new solutions to help us build a more sustainable future, through collaborations across design, technology, and creativity.

The SPARK Shaker is a clean energy-generating musical instrument with the aim of spreading power and education. It was designed for Another Bright Spark, led by percussionist Sudha Kheterpal, who has performed with Faithless, The Spice Girls, Dido, and others, to be manufactured and distributed in off-grid communities in Africa, India, and other countries and raise awareness about renewable energy at festivals in Europe. It raised £53,000 in a Kickstarter campaign in 2014, won GOLD at the London Design Awards 2014 in Product Design for Personal Use, and has also received funding from Virgin StartUps. Here, designer Diana Simpson Hernandez (who has previously worked with Julie's Bicycle on Sustaining Creativity and been a guest at some JB events about circularity) discusses the concepts, ideas, and story behind #ShakeYourPower.


SPARK: #ShakeYourPower by Diana Simpson Hernandez

The story of SPARK begins from a cross-pollination between music and design. This multidisciplinary birth allowed us to create a product that opened a new category in itself: energy-generating music percussion instruments.

Spark is a music percussion instrument that generates power through its use. It uses kinetic energy to generate electricity. As the shaker is played, a magnet runs through a copper coil and produces a current that is then stored in an internal battery and can be used to power a plug in LED light or a mobile phone.

As a product designer, it was very exciting to be part of a project that originated from an unlikely yet perfectly in-tune pairing of music and energy and the challenge was to create a product that would be able to communicate both as a musical instrument but also as an energy-generating electronic product.

The purpose since the beginning has been to empower people. In Kenya where the project was tested, 75% of the population have no access to electricity, so they often use kerosene lighting, which is expensive, toxic and has been linked to house fires. So, our product would provide a clean and safe alternative.

The project is also about bringing people together through music. The act of playing music is in itself an act of connectivity and community-building, so the process of designing the Spark shaker began from the idea of a global heart as a starting point, as through music we bridge boundaries. But Spark is also about energy and power, so I decided to use the language of a flint stone referring to the first spark that gave rise to an amazing new source of power. I felt that Spark was doing the same thing by creating a whole new category of energy products, so the flint stone in the size of a human heart gave us the starting point to begin to tell our story of power through music!

One of the largest parts of the initiative is education, and through our testing in Kenya we realised the huge impact we could have through creating Spark educational assembly kits. This would demystify how electricity is generated allowing children to learn about energy through assembling their own shaker, which they could then use to have light and to further their study time at home.

These kits are currently being developed and we believe they will expand the scope of the impact where it’s needed most.

Since the beginning of the journey, there was a lot of clarity around the core values for the initiative, and we wanted to stay close to them as the project was taking off and gathering more and more momentum. These core values are, one, to celebrate life on our planet with respect, responsibility and through innovation, two, the empowerment of people and communities, and three, interconnectedness of the global community.

We are living in an incredibly exciting time and old boundaries seem to be breaking down or are becoming incredibly flexible. We have never been this connected before and the access to information is instantaneous; more and more social entrepreneurs are rising to challenge the way business is done emphasizing the social good and a positive, nourishing impact on the environment; we are living in a time where national boundaries are blurring and we will hopefully begin to take responsibility as citizens of the world. Furthermore, the way we work and collaborate is changing too. People have many talents and skills and new work/business structures are able to use and encourage them. A new way of living on this planet is forming, with new values and priorities, and Spark is born from this new vision.

I believe that projects like SPARK will have an incredible longevity as they are about more than a product or a service; they also embody the spirit of the times and are at the forefront of a new paradigm.


About Diana Simpson Hernandez

Diana is a Mexico born designer based in London. She graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2010 before completing an MA in Design Products at the Royal College of Art. Diana's focus is now on issues around sustainability, materials and the cultural implications of these, and she is working on developing urban systems of collection and transformation of local waste into functional and higher value products. Together with materials lab TRASH Surface Bureau, she started DiSH design studio in 2015.



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