Our team consisted of four talented industrial designers tackling a difficult problem. Each team member brought something special to the table and created a dynamic that was especially conducive to finding a solution.
WEST LAFAYETTE – Designed to develop balance in children with learning disabilities. Typical adult tricycles don’t develop balance and the pedals frustrate special needs users. Freeride has three distinct levels of developmental learning. Not every child will ascend through all levels, but that isn’t the point. The point is to develop a learning program that adapts to the user and promotes self betterment.
Mental handicaps cause balance issues
Balance issues prevent bike riding.
The adult trike does not teach balance
Most balance bikes are for toddlers and don’t allow for parental assistance.
Meet the Team
Visiting a Special Needs Gym Class
The first step in understanding the problem is to observe the end user. Attending a local special needs gym class was essential. The range of needs was broad, even in such a small class. Some students required near constant attention while others were able to participate in group activities with little supervision. Designing a product that is relevant to the full spectrum will require multiple ways to play.
Interviewing an Expert
Kelly gave us some great tips to keep in mind when designing a tricycle for special needs children. Although most of her 15 students could ride existing tricycles, their feet easily slip off the pedals and the reverse brakes are tricky. She said the design should definitely have some sort of parental assist feature.
Sketching Toward a Solution
When sketching, we wanted to focus on simplifying the process of learning to ride a bike by breaking down the components into individual steps. The primary components included: pedaling, stopping, turning, balancing. By eliminating one or more component from each concept we can help the students focus more on the remaining components. Once they have developed those skills, then the student can work on developing the other necessary skills.
Our first full-size prototype left much to be desired. We designed it to be CNC’ed in order to save time and money. Patterns were exported base off of a computer model.
Much would need to change between this prototype and the final prototype. First, it was much too large and unwieldy. We would need to scale down and make it easier for the user to get their leg over the crossbar. Second, the turning was stiff. We would need to study caster wheels and turning mechanisms to get a more fluid motion.
Refined Computer Model Explained
Our final computer model (on which we based our final prototype) addressed both our original concerns and our concerns related to the first prototype. The new design has a lower profile, is spring loaded to return to center, has a parental assist bar, and, most importantly, had an intuitive lean-to-turn mechanism.
Using the computer model as our guide, we built a scale, functioning prototype from scratch. The components are as close to product as was available on the market. By utilizing existing components wherever possible we could reduce production costs later down the line.
Future revisions will include a wider seat with seat belt and foot straps.