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'Engineering that truly matters': Students give local man with cerebral palsy gift of family bike rides in time for 27th birthday

A local man with cerebral palsy will receive the gift of going on family bike rides again  — just in time for his 27th birthday — thanks to a group of University of Dayton engineering students who designed an electric bike with a trailer that can be easily transported and pulled by his family.

"We used to be a very active family, and Kain used to be very small," said Kain Hubler's mother, Erica Hubler, in a meeting with the first group of students working on the project. "And when he hit 14, he shot up to 6-2. We used to pull him. It's uncomfortable for him. It was too hard for us. We were missing out on that as a family. So if we go, he has to stay home. It's not inclusive. So he doesn't get to participate in family activities like he used to, because we don't have anything adaptive we can use for him."

Members of the group presented Kain's family with the trailer last month at the University of Dayton's Kettering Laboratories.

The students endeavored to create a design that incorporated Kain's wheelchair, rather than requiring Kain to transfer from his wheelchair to a bike, and at the same time, safely secured Kain and the wheelchair. From there, they designed an electric powering mechanism for the bike.

Twelve senior design students worked on the project for two years along with Kain's occupational therapist and family. A National Institutes of Health grant enabled the University of Dayton to partner with United Rehabilitation Services on the project. Kim Bigelow, a professor of mechanical engineering; Allison Kinney, an associate professor of mechanical engineering; and Becky Blust, director of the School of Engineering's Innovation Center, among others, mentored the students.

"I've learned a lot school can't teach you. I think this is a project we'll all look back on for the rest of our lives and it will be a big learning experience for all of us," said Jake Lucca, who graduated in May 2021.

Bigelow said she was struck by how well the students adapted to experiences outside of engineering, like working with Kain's family and occupational therapist to understand his needs and preferences, as well as the wrench thrown into the project by the pandemic.

However, Bigelow said, their reward of delivering Kain's family their bike will far exceed their hurdles.

 "The students worked so much harder when they knew that's what's at stake," Bigelow said. "It's because they want to deliver on a promise to this family, and they know what that will mean to them.

"This is going to change someone's life the day we give it to them. They're going to know they do engineering that truly matters."

For interviews, contact Shawn Robinson, associate director of news and communications, at srobinson1@udayton.edu. 


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