More than a Kid’s Bike

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They stood out from the seasoned bike builders and designers not because of their attire, their hair style or their choice of materials they used in the bike they designed for Oregon Manifest. It was the fact that they were 10, 11, 11 and 12 years old.

The Folk Engineered/Discovery team from New Jersey that showed up in Portland for last weekend’s bike constructor’s design challenge seemed just as interested in the design features and interesting details of the other bikes as many of the other builders. The students helped design and assemble the bike, so they were especially attentive to bikes that strayed from the criteria. I heard one of them comment to a classmate that an entry didn’t have a kickstand, so how could it meet the “freestanding” requirement? And later, upon seeing a three-wheeled entry, one of them questioned the designer: Isn’t this a bicycle competition?

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The 51-mile ride on day two was not a race. It was more of a challenge that included hills and gravel and pavement, picking up a box and strapping it to the bike, grabbing a bag of groceries and stowing it safely and most importantly…returning in one piece and passing the “rattle test”. So when the students saw their teacher roll up with a fully functioning bike, they let out a cheer that was full of pride.

The University of Oregon’s brilliant little campus bike won the student competition. But there’s a chance those four little engineers from New Jersey learned more than anyone about dreaming up an idea and making it a reality.

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all content © Tim LaBarge 2011

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