James Madison University

Sophomore Students Design and Build Original Bikes for a JMU Professor

PHOTO: Bikes

JMU professor Tom Moran was born with cerebral palsy and has limited mobility of his lower body.  He has never been able to ride a bicycle, and no existing bike on the market meets his specific needs. Under the direction of professors Pierrakos and Pappas, six teams of sophomore engineering students each designed a unique bike (actually a “human-powered pedaled vehicle”)

The goal of the two sophomore design courses is to teach students the engineering design process in an experiential, real-world, problem-based approach in order to prepare them for more extensive capstone projects.  Students worked in teams of 8-10 and were tasked with finding a sustainable solution that would meet Dr. Moran’s specific needs.  More specifically, teams needed to identify customer needs, develop multiple conceptual designs, evaluate these designs, and ultimately select one design and build a prototype.  A local bike expert, Mr. Les Welch of the East Coast Bicycle Academy, was integral to helping students prototype their designs.  

Students learned not only about the conceptual and construction design process, and sustainability (environmental, social/cultural, economic, technical), but also how to design a sustainable team process that supported effective project management.  While designing and constructing their prototypes, students were required to document and present their testing methods and redesign procedures.

The six completed prototypes display a variety of design features relevant to  powering the pedaled vehicle (with both arms and legs at the same time - a required customer need), the gearing system (standing elliptical motion, rowing motion, etc.), the steering system (leaning, rotating front wheel steering, etc.), seating (recumbent, standing with back support, etc.).  All bicycles are fully operable by a rider, despite a few minor and expected design weaknesses. 
This project was supported by funds from National Science Foundation grants.

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