University of Delaware
UD mechanical engineering students are working with the Newark Bike Project to develop new devices for bicycles.

Racing ahead

UD mechanical engineering students work with local group to develop biking devices


12:08 p.m., May 5, 2014--For the first three weeks of the semester, sophomore mechanical engineering students became bicycle mechanics. They patched flat tires and replaced broken chains, greased wheel bearings and repaired brake systems on a variety of bicycles under the guidance of volunteer mechanics at Newark Bike Project (NBP), a local non-profit organization near campus.

After learning how the equipment worked, the students returned to their MEEG202: Computer-Aided Engineering Design class and got creative, designing add-on features for commercial bicycles.

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The course, taught by Jenni Buckley, assistant professor of mechanical engineering, focuses on showing the students how to design a product with market appeal using the computer software SolidWorks and then how to build a prototype to the software’s specifications.

By partnering with NBP, the students learned the skills needed to prepare for the design portion of their project – namely, how to assess a client’s needs, how to develop an accessory to enhance a product or technology, and how to network.

Since the semester-long project is open ended, students have the opportunity to create a variety of products that address the needs of professional or recreational bicyclists, or bicyclists with disabilities.

“Encouraging the students to be creative fosters entrepreneurial thinking, which is crucial to developing future innovative technology,” Buckley said.

Roy Murray, an NBP volunteer, said the partnership also allowed students to apply classroom knowledge to a concrete problem. 

“The benefit of the mechanics training is that they can see the larger picture and see how each individual piece fits in with the bicycle as a whole,” said Murray. “So it gives them that hands-on work to actually make something and be able to put their theoretical knowledge to use.”

Robert Brunner, a mechanical engineering major, said he came away with a better understanding of how his project could complement the currently available technology.

“Working with the mechanics gives us a chance to talk with them and discover what the common problems are. Then, when we develop an idea, we can collaborate with them to discover if it is a viable solution and figure out ways to improve it,” said Brunner.

“You can lecture all you want, but until you actually do it you’re not really going to know. I like learning by doing, I think that’s the best way to do it,” he added. 

The students will present their final projects to the campus community during the annual Mechanical Engineering Student Design Showcase on Thursday, May 15, from 1-5 p.m. in Spencer Laboratory. 

Article by Collette L. O’Neal

Photos by Doug Baker

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