Engineering students from the University of Guelph won a national design competition Wednesday after coming up with a single-handed bike braking lever that was inspired by the needs of a nine-year-old girl with a malformed hand.The girl, named Lauren, couldn’t safely ride a standard bike with hand brakes, so the team – made up of engineering students Micha Wallace, Katie Bell, Anina Sakaguchi and Andrew Morris – designed a system that can be operated with one hand.
“We came up with a bike brake lever that combines both the front and the back into the same lever handle using linkages,” said Wallace, 23, who is now working towards her master’s degree at the Ontario university where she did undergraduate studies.
The competition was sponsored by the James Dyson Foundation, which was set up by the inventor of Dyson vacuum cleaners. It was open to full-time students or recent graduates from a recognized college, a CEGEP school in Quebec or university.
The winners receive $5,000, and the design is automatically entered into an international competition for the James Dyson Design Award.
“The award recognizes young designers and engineers that demonstrate the ability to think differently, persist through setbacks and create functional, innovative products that improve the way we live,” said a news release from the foundation.
Wallace said the hand brake was specifically designed so that it could be used on any bike.
“It uses the same brake cables as any other bike,” she explained. “And actually it would be very easy to integrate it to any bike – just take the old handle off and connect the cables into the brake lever, and away you go.”
The designers built a prototype and Lauren has used it.
“Actually she’s been riding around with it all summer and enjoying herself thoroughly, so it works very well,” Wallace said.
The team is looking for industry partners to produce the brake lever.
The inventors suggest the design might be helpful to bike couriers and police officers, who at times might need to take a hand off the handlebars.
Two other inventions were contenders for the top award: a Shake-N-Scrape snow brush that uses heat to remove ice from car windshields, entered by Ray Kwa of Humber College in Toronto; and B-Care, a syringe system for vaccinations that hides the needle to make the experience less frightening for children. It was submitted by Maude Blanchard, Audrey Desjardins, Maxime Roy and Mayka Thibodeau of Universite de Montreal.
-with a report from CP