Once again, I am reminded by an article in my Michigan Tech Alumnus magazine that there is great value for kids learning about bicycle mechanics. Michigan Tech is closely aligned with General Motors in that Tech is primarily an engineering school. The information here is from a recent article.
So, being an engineering school, when GM decided to get involved with the Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, they decided to sponsor the Michigan Tech Huskies Helping Heroes program. GM had been involved before through their GM Military Discount Program through which they donated cycles to the Achilles Freedom Team, but the cycles were breaking down under the demands of competition.
GM turned to Tech, which has a Senior Capstone Design project requirement, and they formed at least five teams of senior mechanical engineering students to work directly with soldiers to develop better racing bicycles.
According to the DOD, about 1,600 servicemen and women suffered injuries in Iraq and Afghanistan that required amputation of one or more limbs; so, many of these soldiers are using their arms to power their bicycles or tricycles. We usually see at least two soldiers on these special bikes on the annual Biking Across Kansas. Imagine powering yourself across Kansas using only arm power.
The point is that high school is not too early for students to start learning about bicycle mechanics, especially if they have an interest in mechanical engineering. A major university and corporation in Michigan specifically utilize the knowledge, skills, and abilities of students who have learned about bicycle mechanics and about material science. After all, the materials that are used in a racing bike do make a difference in whether you win or even finish the race.
I recommend to any student that may have an interest in mechanical engineering or material science to start now to learn about bicycle mechanics and about the materials used in building them. The things that you learn will have application well beyond bicycles, of course. Maybe most important to your college career and your chances of really good employment afterwards, though, is the head start that you could get in high school.
If you already know that you want to be an engineer, than it is never too early to start learning some basics so that when you get to university, you can possibly stand out among your peers and gain the notice of those in industry that will be hiring you.
If you are interested, go to the Michigan Tech website to learn more about the Huskies Helping Heroes project and the Achilles Freedom Team.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.