James Madison University

Engineering Students and Faculty Design and Build a Unique Human-Powered Vehicle

PHOTO: Human Powered Vehicle

Sixteen year old Ricky of Bridgewater, Virginia was born with cerebral palsy and has limited mobility of his lower body.  Under the direction of Department of Engineering professors Nagel, Pappas, and Pierrakos, six teams of sophomore engineering students each designed and built a unique human-powered vehicle to meet Ricky’s specific needs as a part of the two sophomore engineering design courses.  

Over the course of the year, students in the sophomore design courses have learned about the engineering design process as they have worked with Ricky to learn about his needs and Cerebral Palsy.  During the first semester, students worked in small teams (5 to 6 students) to interview their client, establish customer needs, identify target specifications, define product functionality, and create multiple conceptual designs.  Over the second semester, students worked as larger teams (10 to 11 students) to evaluate and iterate prior designs before arriving at a final concept.  Students worked with a local bike expert, Mr. Les Welch of the East Coast Bicycle Academy, over the remaining portion of the semester to evaluate their ideas and construct their designs.  Six ridable bicycles are the result of the students design efforts, and on April 15th, Ricky rode the students bicycles providing direct feedback and choosing one bike to use in his continued therapy with Dr. Tom Moran—the customer for last year's sophomore design course.

The goal of the 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 learned not only about the conceptual and construction design process, and sustainability (environmental, social/cultural, economic, technical), but also the challenges of working with and managing a large design team.  While designing and constructing their prototypes, students were required to document and present their testing methods and redesign procedures.

This project was supported by funds from the National Science Foundation (Awards #DUE-0837465 “NSF CCLI: Design and Implementation of an Innovative Problem-based Learning Model and Assessment Tools in Undergraduate Engineering Education” and #EEC-0846468 “NSF CAREER: Characterizing, Understanding, and Integrating Complex Problem Solving in Engineering Education”).

View additional photos on Flickr.

Read more about it from JMU Public Affairs.