Posted February 10, 2009
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Engineering Competition

McMaster Engineering Students Invent Collapsible Carrier for Commuter Cyclists

Teams win innovative design and parliamentary debate categories at 2009 Ontario Engineering Competition

HAMILTON - Getting more commuters to cycle to work was the motivation behind the invention of a collapsible bicycle trailer designed by two fifth-year mechanical engineering and management students at McMaster University.

Lindsey Kettel and Cory Minkhorst, both fifth-year mechanical engineering and management students, took first-place in the innovative design category at the annual Ontario Engineering Competition held this past weekend at the University of Guelph. The won $3,500 and qualify for the Canadian Engineering Competition being held March 5 to 8 in Fredericton.

CJ Smith, a third-year civil engineering and society student, and Justin Sma, a third-year mechatronics student, placed first in the Parliamentary Debate category. They won $1,500 and will also qualify for the Canadian Engineering Competition.

“More people would commute by bicycle if they had a convenient, safe and secure way to transport things on their way to and from work, but towing an empty bicycle trailer can be very cumbersome,” said Kettel. “Having more cyclists and fewer cars on the road would be better for the environment and for people’s health.”

Research by the two inventors showed that while there were many fixed bicycle trailers on the market there were none that could conveniently fold out of the way while remaining attached to a bike. One study they found showed that nine percent of recreational cyclists in Toronto cited the inability to carry things on a bike as one of the reasons that they do not cycle to work. The pair designed their trailer to give commuter cyclists a convenient way to transport large numbers of goods or bulky items.

“Take groceries for example,” said Minkhorst. “You can only carry so many groceries without a trailer, and larger items are difficult to deal with. Trailers currently on the market pose security problems and can be very inconvenient when not in use unless they are removed. With our trailer, you can make a stop at the store on your way home from work and pick up larger items such as a 24-pack of toilet paper, without having to plan your entire day around it.”

The collapsible carrier is designed so that the rigid base folds inward when unlocked. Pins for both wheels are then released by the rider and the whole assembly folds together and rotates upwards to sit conveniently on a rear bike rack. The trailer is lightweight and can be securely locked.

The idea was originally conceived by Kettel for an industrial design class. Kettel then asked Minkhorst to pair up with her to develop a prototype for a fourth-year design project. The two students were encouraged to enter the trailer into the competition.

Both plan to graduate in the spring and are deciding if they will turn their invention into a business. They are getting encouragement to do so from fellow students, professors and potential funders.

Kettel is a graduate of Marc Garneau Collegiate Institute in Toronto and Minkhorst is a graduate of Bishop Reding Secondary School in Milton.

The Ontario Engineering Competition (OEC) is an annual event that challenges university engineering students from across the province to a series of competitions. More than 200 competitors from 15 universities participated in this year’s event. The six competition categories include Senior Team Design, Junior Team Design, Innovative Design, Consulting Engineering, Engineering Communications, and Parliamentary Debate.

The top two teams in each category from the provincial level move on to compete against their peers at the national Canadian Engineering Competition, which is being held in Fredericton this year from March 5 to March 8.

© Copyright 2009/Exchange Morning Post/Exchange Business Communications Inc.
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