UPenn Engineers Make STEM Subjects Appealing With High Tech Bike

May 5, 2011

Cyclist in bike laneMost adults understand the benefits of pursuing an education in the so-called STEM subjects--science, technology, engineering and math. However, convincing kids and teens to pursue the subject is another story. As GOOD's education editor, Liz Dwyer pointed out, the stereotypical science or math nerd is a hard image to sell to a younger generation who's often more interested in cool stuff or just being cool in general. A group of University of Pennsylvania engineers, however, may have come up with a very convincing argument: the Alpha bike.

According to the bike's website, a group of five UPenn mechanical engineering students--Geoff Johnson, Lucas Hartman, Katie Savarise, Evan Dvorak and Katie Rohacz--got together for a yearlong senior design project to sum up their education. The students wanted to showcase what they had learned through the years by creating a bicycle "that would push the boundaries of integrated systems". The bike was built entirely in-house at UPenn's Engineering School.

DVICE reported Alpha is "one of the most technologically sophisticated bikes in existence". It includes advanced features such as a fully internal drivetrain, carbon fiber frame, an electronically controlled clutch that allows the rider to switch between fixed-gear and freewheeling modes and an LCD on custom handlebars that displays gear, distance, speed and cadence. Data is stored on a removable SD card.

According to the website, careful and thorough analyses went into the bike's creation. The final result is a clean-lined machine that is just 28 pounds and can withstand loadings far beyond normal riding. The team of engineers received three awards for the Alpha: first prize in Rock West Composites Annual Design Competition, the Gemmil Award and first place in the SEAS Senior Design Competition.

Unfortunately, DVICE noted that Alpha is not for sale, but speculated that some of its features may be found on bikes in the future.

GOOD pointed out that 80 percent of jobs of the future will require math and science skills. While that may not be a selling point for most teens, the Alpha--and the fact that it was built by some college students--may be enough to pique their interest in STEM subjects.

Compiled by CityTownInfo.com Staff


"ALPHA," thealphabike.com

"Can This Super High-Tech Bike Get Kids Interested in Engineering?" good.is, May 4, 2011, Liz Dwyer

"Engineering students spent a year designing this crazy bike," dvice.com, April 29, 2011, Evan Ackerman

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