BCIT Students Show Pedal-Powered Innovation

Knowledge was power at BCIT on Wednesday, with creative thinking in abundance, and a wild array of student designed solutions to the problem of building a pedal-powered, electricity-generating vehicle that could fit inside a 30 x 18 x 16 inch box.

If that wasn’t enough of a challenge, the bikes also had to compete on the basis of agility, acceleration/deceleration, and be nimble and fast enough for a spirited game of indoor bike polo, much to the delight of campus onlookers.
Michael Cabana and Michael Holbrook took a differential from a mobility scooter as their key component and built up a design around a low center of gravity and maneuverability. 

“All the turning is done with the braking. We can lock up one wheel and turn 360 degrees,” says Cabana.


“We’ve definitely learned a lot about the design process. The first time you try things doesn’t always work out, so we would head back to the drawing board. We made half-scale models out of cardboard and dowels and it’s turned out pretty close to the original,” added Holbrook.

Twin power and tiller steering make for a maneuverable two-man attack according to the designers of this recumbent tadpole (two wheels in front, one at rear).

“We can do a 360 (degree turn) on the spot,” says Michael Carpenter. “With the split axle one of us can pedal forward and the other can pedal backward.” 

The students looked to aircraft design and built their machine with a semi-monoque design. The seats are incorporated into the chassis as a tub trailing the main drive unit.

“We decided it would be best to have both people pedaling so they could each carry their own load,” adds Russell Evanisky.

The Mallet Brothers!

 Tried and true was the rationale with this delta trike. But it was not without some twists.

“We had automotive disk brakes, but because we didn’t have hydraulics we modified them to use pieces of cut-out tire. It actually works pretty good,” remarked team member Bryan Richard.

His team mate Andrew Speckon sees the design as a simple one. “We built something that wouldn’t break.”

Teacher Randy Schultz is impressed by the innovative ideas. “The solutions have been broad and varied,” he says referring to the wide variety of designs. Official results from the various tests aren’t compiled yet, but Schultz says it’s a clear case of everyone being a winner.
“They’ve really embraced the idea of the competition. And they’ve come up with some very interesting ways to deconstruct bicycles so they can go into small spaces, so there’s some ideas there that I think could be developed.”  
Measuring rolling resistance

 “It’s a very viable power mechanics curriculum area. Traditionally we’ve been about small air-cooled engines repair and maintenance. And if we can move that into human power and more of an eco-approach to power mechanics then we are well on our way to redefining that curriculum area.” says Schultz.

Chad Umlah stand proudly beside his team’s creation.  “We took a BMX frame and chopped it to fit it into the box. We went with a fixed gear and spent most of our time building the drivetrain. It worked out. Our gear ratio was just right. It performed well on the polo field. Plus it only took five minutes to assemble out of the box.”

But, the horsepower, however minimal it might be, wasn’t being used for just thoroughbred activities like polo. Each bike must also have a generator component, turning the pedal energy into DC current.

Wrapping up the day’s events, a human-powered concert, with electricity for the band provided by the pedal-power electrical generation capabilities of the competitors and their bikes.



    Cool story Chris!


  2. Puck Nuts | |

    Nice article Chris. Love the band powered by pedals: their amplifiers go all the way to 11… or 12 if you’re really fit!

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