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Home Alumni Alumni News Big bike, big ideas

Big bike, big ideas

At 13 years of age and standing 45 feet long and 8 feet wide, the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Big Bike is a Calgary legend and a larger-than-life fundraising tool. But it’s also rusty, difficult to repair and, for some, uncomfortable to ride.

The Challenge

How can the foundation revamp and reinvigorate the Big Bike with upgrades that are simultaneously eye catching, affordable and safe?

The Solution

Enlist the services of SAIT Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) students to suss out the bike's current weaknesses and assess what structural and aesthetic updates can be made.

When the second-year Design and Development students in the MET program approached their final semester this winter, they were prepped for a huge undertaking: a capstone project in which they were partnered with industry-relevant clients.

Two groups were assigned to work on the Big Bike, with one team looking at lightening the bike’s frame and the other — Team Big Bike One, comprised of Allan Anotado (MET ‘15), William Nelson (MET ’15), Zhenyu Chang (MET ‘15), and Teo Nakamura (MET ‘15) — assessing possible improvements to the bike’s aesthetics, ergonomics and accessories.

Frequent check-ins with their instructors and regular communication with Matt Paterson, the Foundation’s Big Bike Coordinator, helped guide the group and ensured that they stayed on track with their ideas.

“We were always overflowing with ideas, and we had the work ethic to get things done,” Nakamura says.

Though their April 16 deadline loomed over their heads, the engineering quartet spent an average of six to eight hours a week brainstorming, conceptualizing and finalizing their list of potential improvements for the bike.

Invaluable real-world experience

The group provided nine suggested improvements, all individually priced, ranging from a side-mounted advertising board that promotes the Foundation and its sponsors, to a novelty horn that alerts pedestrians and motorists to the Big Bike’s presence.

“We identified these improvements to not only make the ride comfortable and enjoyable, but to also get riders to have great memories so they would come back again to ride the bike and tell others about it,” Anotado says.

“All of the elements that were suggested are what we would love to implement. It is now merely a matter of feasibility and adjustments to making it a reality,” Paterson says.

However, two of the group’s ideas — incorporating an LED heart metre display that’s linked to riders’ performance and gradually fills up as riders pedal faster, and adding rear storage to hold an automated external defibrillator and a first aid kit — are the upgrades that Paterson is looking forward to most because “they are so in line with the Heart and Stroke Foundation and now almost seem necessary add-ons [to] the current design.”

While Nakamura says the project provided the group with “invaluable real-world experience,” it also left a great first impression on Paterson, who hopes to repay the students by etching their names into the new and improved bike.

“The group blew me away with their enthusiasm, innovation and dedication to the Big Bike,” he says. “They definitely exceeded my expectations.”

Written by Giselle Wedemire