Grown-ups had explained his task: Pedal the stationary bicycle to power light bulbs.
They'd explained that the bicycle was hooked to a generator and wired to three kinds of light bulbs screwed into a board in front of him. His pedaling would power that generator.
They would flip a switch to illuminate either two LED (light emitting diodes) bulbs and two CFLs (compact fluorescent lights), or four incandescent bulbs.
With confidence, the 7-year-old mounted a bicycle inside the Main Hall at the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center in Harrisburg. He seemed to know that he was strong enough and could pedal fast enough to power a light bulb, no matter the type.
Julie Stone, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, coached him. She knew he'd encounter difficulty because incandescent lights take more power to illuminate. That's the point of the alternative energy exhibit at the state's 93rd annual farm show, and its relation to the show's theme, Keeping Pennsylvania Growing.
Devin is an avid bike rider, does it all the time along the rural roads of Dover. Sure enough, little effort was required to power the LED and CFL bulbs. But when Stone flipped the switch to transfer his power to the incandescent bulbs, Devin's legs strained to move the pedals.
He looked up at the lights, then over to Stone, who encouraged him to push and acknowledged the difficulty.
Easier job: So Stone flipped the switch again. Devin seemed to regain strength as the LEDs and CFLs produced full light. Stone explained the difference: Incandescent bulbs use more power.
"Can you imagine having to work that hard every time you turned on a light," she asked Devin.
His mother, 34-year-old Annie Rauhauser, laughed and said perhaps he'd think about turning off lights more often. Rauhauser, a postal clerk, is like many residents who have not yet begun to replace incandescent bulbs with energy efficient bulbs.
She doesn't recycle, per se, but has recently begun to learn about the multitude of alternative energy sources, such as wind and solar, and the reason to reduce power consumption.
She said she realizes energy prices are increasing and that wasteful use of resources costs her money and harms the environment. She said she plans to switch at some point to CFLs, which use 75 percent less energy to power, but it just has not been a priority.
Stone and colleague William Allen Jr. spent Sunday at the booth doing their best to inform hundreds of children and adults who stopped in to ride the bicycle to power the bulbs.
"There are little things that people can do to reduce energy use," Allen said. "We just want people to know about alternative energy and how it fits in with climate change."
Explains production, too: The exhibit also details solar and wind energy production and upcoming incentives the state will offer those who begin to reduce energy consumption. In coming months, Stone said the state will begin to roll out alternative energy programs.
Some $100 million in loans, rebates and grants will be made available for residents and small businesses that install solar energy technology.
These funds would pay for up to 35 percent of installation costs. Stone and Allen said that energy source cuts costs for everything from lighting the home to heating water.
Another $80 million in grants and loans will be dispersed during the next decade to spur solar-based economic development projects such as manufacturing.
Those incentives, however, don't mean a lot to Devin just yet. After several minutes on the bicycle, with a dozen children waiting for their turn, he got off the bike, took a few steps and leaned against his mother and attempted to catch his breath.
"He's a biker, too," Rauhauser said and looked down at Devin. "Do you think you'll turn the lights off now?"
-- Reach Kathy Stevens at 505-5437 or kstevens@
Getting to the farm show
The 2009 Pennsylvania Farm Show, themed "Keeping Pennsylvania Growing," continues through Saturday, in the Farm Show Complex and Expo Center off Exit 67 of Interstate 81 along Cameron and Maclay streets in Harrisburg.
Signs and message boards direct visitors onto alternate routes to alleviate congestion on I-81.
Off-site parking is available for $8 per vehicle with shuttle service included.
A list of events and other information about the show are available at www.farmshow.state.pa.us or call 717-787-5373.