Can This Super High-Tech Bike Get Kids Interested in Engineering?

Posted by Liz Dwyer

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These days there's a lot of energy going into how to get kids interested in science, technology, engineering, and math—the so-called STEM subjects. Part of the challenge is image. The stereotype of the unattractive, withdrawn nerd proving geometric theories in her head isn't the most attractive role model. That's where examples like the above tricked-out bike constructed by UPENN engineering students could help out.

Eavesdrop on any group of kids, and you'll hear them talking about skateboarding, the X-Games, and BMX biking. They're into this stuff. When they see the pictures of this bike—or watch the video below—find out what it can do, and then hear that some college students built it, they're going to want to know more.

The bike itself is actually pretty sweet. The prototype is called the Alpha, and on the site for it, the UPENN engineering students say they set out to create a boundary pushing bicycle with integrated systems.

The result is Alpha, the first bicycle with a fully internal drivetrain including an electronically-controlled clutch allowing the rider to switch between fixed-gear and freewheeling configurations. All of the bike’s components, including a belt drive, brakes, and an onboard electronics suite, are housed inside the custom-machined frame. Besides protecting these fragile components from degrading environmental exposure, this integration also gives the bike a streamlined, striking appearance.

It also comes with its own LCD screen and is engineered to go at least 19 miles per hour.

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We generally give kids dry reasons to get into STEM fields. All that stuff about 80 percent of jobs of the future needing math and science skills—that's the kind of factoid adults care about. Kids need good reasons to care now—and there's nothing like showing them a fantastically cool bike to pique their interest. 

photos via Alpha