'Smartbike' being created by inspired teens

December 14, 2013 (CHICAGO)

A small bike shop in Bridgeport has a local veterans group empowering with some area teens to build a product and a business.

Sparks fly in the small bike shop as students look and learn.

"It's fun cause we experience new things. We learned how to fix a bike," said Brianna Caver, Harper High School.

They are part of a program sponsored by the group, "Leave No Veteran Behind" and the Chicago Department of Family and Support Services. The low-income youth from safe passage schools on the South Side are exposed to hands-on lessons that teach science, technology, engineering and math.

"The math part is involved when they're building the wheels and size up the components," said Adam Clark, Pedal to the People. "The technology itself is everything in the bicycle."

With the help of bicycle builders at "Pedal to the People," they aim to turn a 1971 Chicago-made Schwinn into a modern commuter Smartbike. It will even be equipped with a generator to charge your cell phone as you ride. If the group has its way, the Smartbike will do everything you never imagined.

"This bike is not going to be a 10-speed, a 5-speed. It doesn't work off a conventional gearing system," said Rob Walker, Leave No Veteran Behind. "The way the gearing works in this bike, it's a continual curve.

"It's going to have automotive grade lighting. It's going to have a tail light on the back that's tied in with the front wheel so when you're applying the brakes, the brake light knows to start blinking."

There are no blueprints. Students are helping to design the bike and source parts as build. Organizers hope their "create as you go" design process will nurture curiosity in the students and foster business sense.

"It's cool because not only do they give us lessons about the bike and horticulture," said Akeem Lockhart, Air Force Academy. "They also give us life lessons, stuff we need to continue to do go things with our life."

The group is actively working to raise money to buy parts and complete the bike.

The finished prototype will be auctioned with hopes that the proceeds will give them seed money to build ten Smart bikes next year.

They have launched an online Crowdrise campaign to collect donations.

For more information: Crowdrise campaign

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