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Huskies helping heroes

Hand-crank cycle developed to aid veterans

December 6, 2012
By ASHLEY CURTIS - DMG writer ( , The Daily Mining Gazette

HOUGHTON - Seven students from Michigan Technological University will be traveling to the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia Saturday to present their prototype hand-cranked three-wheel cycles.

The two prototype hand-cranked cycles were developed by students from the mechanical engineering senior design team as part of a two-semester project, Huskies Helping Heroes, supported by General Motors.

According to a Michigan Tech press release, the GM Military Discount Program had been providing hand-cranked cycles to aid paraplegic veterans participating in marathon races, but had been experiencing design flaws. To help solve the flaws in the design, GM enlisted the help of the Michigan Tech senior design teams.

When the project began last semester, there were four teams of four to start planning for a prototype cycle, however, in the fall, the four teams were condensed to two teams of eight members. The final two teams, Peleus Solutions and Patriot Powered Performance, have worked diligently to design and create a working cycle.

"The goal of the project is to develop a traveling race bike for the Achilles Freedom Team (of Wounded Veterans)," said Brett Jenkins, team leader of Peleus Solutions and Michigan Tech senior.

To ensure the cycles are a good fit for the veterans, each team was assigned a veteran athlete to work with.

"During the first semester, the development semester, we met via conference call on a weekly basis. We'd share ideas, especially if we came up with a new idea," said James Cook, team leader for Patriot Powered Performance and Michigan Tech senior.

The four original and two final teams worked diligently with their veteran athletes to figure out what the problems were with the current cycle models and how to solve them. Then, in their final semester of senior design, the students started building the prototype.

"This semester is all building, so we start using our engineering skills to build the cycle. Then we went down to the marathon in Detroit," Jenkins said.

The Detroit Free Press Marathon was the students' first in-person interaction with the veteran athletes who were all interested to see what problems the students could solve in the current model.

"It was really helpful. Some of them were brutally honest with some things, which is what we needed," Jenkins said. "Overall, there weren't any major issues with our cycles just because we'd been working with an athlete, so we had an idea what they were looking for."

During the design and build process, the two final teams worked hard to solve issues athletes experienced with the cycles, which included the fork-linkage system for ease of transportation, sturdier hand-cranks and seat adjustments to meet the needs of a variety of wounded veterans.

"The same cycles can potentially be used for multiple athletes, so we need to make it adjustable for each athlete based on their height and the leg restraints based on single- or double-leg amputees," Jenkins said.

The final prototype, The Tomahawk, built by Patriot Powered Performance, focused on a redesigned hand-crank and a seat that adjusts forward, backward, up and down. The Keweenaw Kruiser also has a seat adjustment that moves horizontally and a forks linkage system that reduces the overall length in transportability so the cycle could potentially fit in the trunk of a car.

Cook and Jenkins say they are proud of the work their teams have completed and are looking forward to sharing their experience.

"The most rewarding part of the project was the interaction with the Achilles athletes, going to Detroit, seeing what they need, what they had, what we can do and seeing the passion these guys have," Cook said.

Although the project provided students with real-world work experience, they also had the opportunity to help others.

"Giving back to those who have fought for our country is probably the most rewarding experience for me," Jenkins said.

The senior design teams for the Huskies Helping Heroes project, run through Michigan Tech, would not have been possible without the help of GM.

"We need to make acknowledgments in thanking the Michigan Tech senior design program, along with General Motors, specifically our advisors from GM. Everybody that's involved has been incredibly helpful," Cook said.

Jenkins and Cook, along with five senior design team members, will present the prototype cycles in a press conference prior to the game. During a stoppage of play in the first quarter, a veteran athlete will ride the cycle onto the field with Cook; Dan Akerson, GM chair and chief executive officer; and Alexa Ellswood, GM engineer.

Kick-off for the Army-Navy game is scheduled for 3 p.m. Saturday.



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