Entrepreneurial Students Design Bicycle Sharing System
May 3, 2011
Sponsored by fivepm technology, Inc., a bicycle sharing Senior Design project has spawned into a business for three Mechanical Engineering students at Stevens Institute of Technology. The team of Ellyn Griggs, Angela Parriott, and Laura Jean Sneider developed SmartPedals, a cost-effective bicycle sharing system that eases the hassle of a commute and is good for the environment. The team's advisor was Dr. Constantin Chassapis, Mechanical Engineering Department Director and deputy Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering & Science.
In a typical urban environment, individuals can spend up to 56 hours per year stuck in traffic. For those who live within five miles of the office, bicycle riding is a viable option to not only save time and money, but also to reduce their carbon footprints. But who wants to buy and store a bike in the city?
The students' solution, SmartPedals, is a low cost bicycle-sharing system that integrates custom-created locks, a kiosk for on-site transactions, and an online data tracking system. "Think of us as the ZipCar of bicycles," Ellyn suggests. Based on a similar model to the popular car-sharing program, cyclists rent a bicycle from any location for a period of time and then return them to a rack for other SmartPedals subscribers to use.
"This is a superb example of combining engineering principles with business instinct," says Dr. Chassapis. "SmartPedals addresses an important segment of the market with an easy-to-use solution."
Existing bicycle sharing systems can cost up to $4,000 for each custom-manufactured bike, with an average deployment cost of $300,000. SmartPedals, however, costs only $600 per bike with an equivalent deployment of $40,000. SmartPedals cost per bike is significantly reduced by the ability to retrofit the system onto existing bicycle racks and donated bicycles. By reducing the cost of bicycle sharing technology, SmartPedals offers a viable solution for small municipalities and college campuses.
The team designed and fabricated all components for the project – locks, kiosk, and data system. Ellyn said it took a lot of planning, but made good use of the graduate-level Systems Engineering classes that she took through the Stevens Scholars program. "Because of my graduate classes in Systems Engineering, I was able to help understand the entire scope of the system. I was integral in getting feedback from stakeholders, converting those needs into system requirements, and then understanding how the different components of the system should work together." In addition to earning a Bachelor's of Engineering in Mechanical Engineering degree, both Ellyn and Angela will graduate with a Master's of Engineering in Systems Engineering. Laura Jean will graduate with a B.E. in Mechanical Engineering and a Master's of Science in Computer Science.
For Ellyn, the project represents the culmination of four years hard work, coming together in a physical product that addresses real-world issues. "Our project has the potential to help current environmental and traffic issues. I am most proud of the fact that our system can make bicycle-sharing more accessible to a wider audience."
Ellyn knew when she chose Stevens that she would receive a solid education and the industry experience to land a solid job. However, she was pleasantly surprised by the breadth of the resources available. "I was looking for a small, academically strong school that was close to home and had a field hockey team. What I did not realize until after coming here is how perfect it is not only for these reasons, but also because the location provides easy access to New York City, which helped in searching for jobs. I also came to appreciate the Career Development Office and the positive atmosphere on campus between the students and faculty/administration."
Ellyn leaves Stevens primed to enter the workplace with L'Oreal in the Management Development Program. "The educational environment and the challenging course load replicate the demands of the workplace. I can honestly say that I feel like I excelled at my internships the past two summers because I had a well-rounded Stevens education to prepare me. I have learned not only the technical knowledge but also the softer skills needed to thrive in the workplace."
Check out the team's website at www.smartpedals.com