More than just pedal power

More than just pedal power

What started as a simple idea to help special needs kids has become a transformative and collaborative engineering project to bring to market a range of wheelchair e-bikes.

RMIT, Brite and North Link have worked together over the last two years to create the ‘brike,’ an e-bike designed to help a wheelchair-bound person be involved in cycling.

Designed by RMIT students and built by people with disability, the bike is now set to make the leap from prototype to production, thanks to a National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) grant.

The $300,000 grant from NDIS's Information Linkages and Capacity Building (ILC) initiative will allow Brite to manufacture the bike, train staff in how to build and then maintain bikes and create a model for the bikes to be bought and leased.

The first prototype is expected to be ready by late 2019, with full production possible by mid-2020.

A render of the 'brike' design

School of Engineering lecturer David Taylor said the idea started when his cycling club in Melbourne’s south started doing a weekly ride day for kids with special needs using tandem cycles.

“Bikes were donated, but since they were difficult to pedal because they were so heavy, they asked if our students could design a better bike. We came up with an idea for a bike that used electric assist pedalling – that way anyone can ride it,” Taylor said.

“The project allowed the students to gain real-world experience, which also generated meaningful employment for the disability sector that otherwise would not have materialised.”

“It shows us that a simple idea can lead on to so many different opportunities.”

Students from the School of Engineering worked on the design for two years, with Master of Business Administration students helping out on the business proposal.

Bachelor of Engineering (Automotive Engineering) student James Goodman said he thoroughly enjoyed working on the bike.

“It has given me the opportunity to work on a real project and gain practical knowledge that will no doubt be useful in my future career,” he said.

“It is quite satisfying to see the bike advance through its stages of design, but to eventually see someone riding it around and enjoying it will be even better, especially since it is for a great cause.”

The bikes will be manufactured at Brite’s facilities in Melbourne’s north, to be assembled and services by people with disability employed by Brite.

All employees will receive industry-accredited bicycle mechanic training, setting them up for future careers as bike mechanics.

Brite CEO Nick Mac Hale said that project was really about partnership and collaboration.

“This project was a great idea, and helped those involved to learn new skills and confidence levels, so they can get that job that they want,” Mac Hale said.

RMIT will continue to assist Brite throughout the bike’s manufacture and are looking towards expanding the range.

Opportunities for the bike go beyond the disability sector, with aged care already identified as a possible additional market.

 

Story: Jasmijn van Houten

17 September 2019

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17 September 2019

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  • Student experience
  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Engineering
  • Industry
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

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