The whirring sound of bike tires spinning on stationary stand could be heard throughout the Kelley Engineering Center as one after another Engineering Expo visitors tested out the Intellicycle. Based on the number of people flocking to get on the bike it was not surprising the senior design project won the People’s Choice Award. But it was more than senior Arron Bellini had anticipated.
“I wasn’t expecting more than passing glances, but then the interest in it blew up. It was pretty crazy,” Bellini said.
The Intellicycle is a device that can be added to any bike to measure speed, distance, cadence and temperature. The information is sent to a smartphone where it is displayed on a mobile application which can also bring up a map of your location. There are no worries about the phone running out of battery life, because the system harvests energy from the front wheel. In addition to recharging a phone, the power system runs the lights on the bike. But they are not just ordinary lights — these “smart” lights automatically turn on when it gets dark, and can also be controlled manually.
Brian Benavidez said he thought their project did well at Expo because it was very hands-on, it was easy for people to understand and useful to many types of bike riders. Having a bike situated in the atrium of Kelley was an amazing hook to get people interested. “We had a five-year-old riding it and an 82-year-old riding it, and they both had huge smiles on their faces,” he said.
Beyond seeing how fast they could get the bike to go, the visitors also had questions.
“We had genuine questions from people who are not engineers wanting to know how it works. It was cool that we could take some complicated engineering and convert it into something that a 5-year-old kid wants to know about. It turned the competition into education,” Kamil Agrawala said.
The project, which was first hatched by the friends at a football game, split nicely into three parts they each had independent control over: the power system, the sensors, and the mobile application. The hard part, they all admitted, was getting the three separate parts to work together. And although they sometimes butted heads on how to get it to work, they left business behind them when they would hang out together as friends.
“The one thing I would tell other students doing their senior project, is pick a team that you have a good group chemistry with, because you’ll be working with these people for a year,” Agrawala said.
The many hours of work paid off in a project that captured the imaginations of those who visited, some who wondered if the group would turn it into a marketable product. For now, the success of finishing is enough.
“To come up with a plan and execute it the way we wanted to, and then to cap off with the award was a pretty monumental achievement. Right now I’m just feeling sincere gratification,” Bellini said.
–by Rachel Robertson