It’s Like Riding a Bike – Connie Melidy

Bicycle prototype

Bicycle prototype

We’ve all heard the expression: “It’s like riding a bike!” The phrase is often used to describe something that once you’ve learned it, you’ll never forget.  Over the past year, however, Connie Melidy and her capstone team of fourth-year mechanical engineering students discovered that learning to ride a bike in the first place is hard for some people, and decided to turn that challenge into their own challenge.

Last summer, when the team was looking for an idea, they decided they wanted to work with children with disabilities. One of their professors suggested they connect with Brendan Wylie-Toal at GreenHouse who in turn connected them with a Discovery lab at GreenHouse where they met people at KidsAbility, an organization that supports children in the Waterloo Region living with disabilities. There they heard about the various challenges for children with disabilities in terms of riding a bicycle, especially as they outgrow traditional-sized training wheels and tricycles.

the team

From left to right in the photo: Professor Clifford Butcher (faculty advisor), Victoria DeRooy, Connie Melidy, Ross Ecclestone, and Jonathan Reemeyer.

Calling themselves The Balanced Bikers, the team developed a variety of modifications from enhanced seats and pedals to a new model for training wheels for larger bikes. The team was also happy to have finished their project before the campus shut down this spring.

“Its been really worth it to do a project you can see helping someone down the line. A lot of students who aren’t from the area would never know about organizations like KidsAbility. GreenHouse was a great way to connect with real people and to learn about actual problems.”

While team members don’t plan to continue this project as a venture, they are in conversation with local companies that build bike trailers, hoping that the project will one day be used to make sure more children can say something is just like riding a bike.

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