Calgary Folk Festival Musicians Literally Light Up Festival Stage

Posted by The Calgary Eyeopener on 21 July 2015

A man crowd surfs as A Tribe Called Red performed at the 2014 Calgary Folk Music Festival. (Submitted by Ashley Thompson)

It could be the most folkie science project in the history of the universe.

This week at the Calgary Folk Music Festival, a grad student will harness the vibrations made on stage by foot stomping musicians to generate electricity.

"All day long the stage is going to vibrate, it's going to feed into this battery and then we can flip the switch when it gets dark," said Natalie Robertson, who is working on her master's of environmental design degree at the University of Calgary.

Those good vibrations — produced by everything from guitars to pianos to basses and bongos — will illuminate a light installation at the festival.

"I've been calling it the lollipop forest."

Robertson says the idea for this power project came to her when she was walking through a parkade and felt the vibrations underneath her feet.

She has stowed about 70 piezoelectric sensors, each the size of a hockey puck, under Stage Four.

Robertson says each one contains a natural element, like a quartz crystal, which when compressed or put under tension — will generate an electrical charge on their own.

"One day, I'm sure Nenshi will phone me up and hand me a bridge. That's the plan. I'd like to put these on bridges and make the infrastructure self-sufficient, electrically. Or maybe stuff these in lamp posts so maybe when there's a blackout or a flood, then the whole city doesn't go dark."

Roberston says the sensors last about 50 years and were donated to the the festival.