Last Saturday, students and faculty from MADE@TU completed their first project, which gave a family an inventive way to exercise together.
Junior Mechanical Engineers Laura Waldman and Andrew Parker were the primary workers on the project, advised by John Henshaw, the Chair of Mechanical Engineering.
The students provided the Dittus family with a custom two-seat tricycle. This tricycle allows the family to exercise together, a favorite activity that is sometimes complicated by their son’s developmental disability.
Within days of getting the trike, the family has used it several times, according to Laura Waldman.
Funding, provided by President Upham, allowed the trike to be donated to the Dittus family.
The project idea originated with Henshaw since he is a friend of the Dittus family. Henshaw had known of the need to build something to allow the family to exercise. Building the trike took several years for MADE@TU. Henshaw “wants students to work on projects they’re excited about,” leading to the project being an “on/off process.”
The tricycle seats two, side-by-side. This arrangement allows the passenger to “share the same view as the driver,” unlike a tandem bike.
The driver can steer, brake and pedal, while the passenger holds onto a restraint bar and pedals.
Waldman started on the project about a year and a half ago, while Parker began this summer as part of his TURC research. When Waldman began the project, it was “about 95 percent done.”
The project lacked documentation and specified details, however, so Waldman had to “make (her) own paperwork and take it back to 60 percent and then go from there.” She “spent more time taking apart old parts than fabricating new ones,” she said.
Although the project was “rideable and adequate,” design changes were made. Steering underwent the most changes, as it went from a traditional wheel design to a design using levers.
Changes were also made to increase the safety, especially for the passenger, by adding a lap bar much like a roller coaster.
“By fixing these issues, we found problems in building trikes and designing them,” Parker said. They then tried to incorporate these observations into their next set of designs.
As time working on the trike passed, Waldman and Parker were joined by others.
Waldman said, “At first it was just me,” but the project grew until there were twelve others helping with the project.
“It’s good because now people can share the workload,” Waldman said, but it can be “hard to get twelve people on the same page.”
Work on the new tricycle has already started, in cooperation with SENEA (Sustainable Engineering for Needy and Emerging Areas).
The second generation will hopefully be lighter and fixed in minor ways, according to Henshaw.
“We plan to use what we learned to improve on the model and (to) design one that can be produced quicker,” said Parker.
While SENEA may use the tricycle for other purposes, Parker said the new tricycle will be kept on campus, as a “learning model for similar trikes” and a way to transport people around.
The trikes kept on campus will be used as shuttles during tailgates and other events. This version will have four seats, with two for passengers and two for a driver and co-pilot.
Henshaw said the idea came from someone outside the engineering department, as both sensible transportation and publicity for engineering and MADE@TU.
The experience was inspirational to the pair of students. Waldman liked to “see something we did make a difference.” While she’s not sure how the experience will affect her future, working on the project allowed her to “put lectures to practice,” which helped her studies.
Parker enjoyed “being able to work on something that you can complete and see the results.” He hopes to “work somewhere where I can engage in projects” and then see the results of his labor.
“You don’t always get opportunities to build and design something” like this as a student, Waldman said.