Wheels in Motion: LSU ME Seniors Work With Local Youth to Build Hydraulic Bike

April 15, 2021

Two adults helping young boy build a bike frameBATON ROUGE, LA – Each spring, LSU College of Engineering seniors are assigned a capstone design project to complete before graduating. This spring, a group of four LSU Mechanical Engineering seniors came together to design a hydraulic bike, a project that enabled them to learn from and mentor young kids from Front Yard Bikes.

When LSU ME senior Alicia Pastor of New Orleans saw that her senior capstone design project was to help design a hydraulic bike, she was excited since biking is a passion of hers. She also thought about where she could find reasonably-priced bike parts and talk to someone with knowledge of bikes.

“I was interested in bikes and had gone to Front Yard Bikes a lot,” Pastor said. “There are a lot of elitist attitudes in the bicycle industry and sometimes it can be hard to talk to a bike mechanic, but everyone at Front Yard Bikes has always been so kind and jumped at the opportunity to help. They really want to teach you.”                                               

Front Yard Bikes (FYB) is a community bike shop that focuses on teaching participants of all ages how to fix and maintain bikes, as well as skills in math, physics, and mechanics, while promoting inclusivity, mentorship, recreation, and academic achievement. FYB offers the youth in the community a safe and free after-school program where they are taught responsibility and become peer leaders as they are faced with ethical and moral questions in their day-to-day lives.

“I went to FYB to ask some general questions, and they put me in touch with Will Adams,” Pastor said. “He became our main point of contact and cycling guru. We asked if there was something we could do for him since he had given us so much of his time, and he said that if we could just help the kids somehow, that would be great. So, we had the idea of having the kids help us along the way, and we could teach them about fluid power and, ultimately, have them come to our hydraulic bike competition.”   

Using spare parts from FYB, Pastor and her teammates—led by LSU ME senior Jake Perry of Baton Rouge—assembled their hydraulic bike and raced it last Saturday against another capstone team’s hydraulic bike in the Tour de Patrick, a hydraulic bike competition created by LSU ME alumnus Ryan Troendle and sponsored by Phillips 66.

“The project is not an attempt at all to improve the traditional bike,” Pastor said. “The competition rules are that there must be some hydraulics between the pedaling and wheel motion. The transmission on a regular bike is 98 percent efficient, but with hydraulics, we’re trying to break in with 60 percent efficiency. It’s an academic exercise to learn about fluid power.”

Adult woman helping a boy construct a bike framePerry, who offered to handle the hydraulics part of the project, said that Adams welded all the tubing on their bike frame together.

“He’s been a great advisor in terms of bike components,” Perry said. “Will is a natural teacher and helped guide us on this project. It was also interesting to see how much these third- and fourth-graders knew about bike parts and how to put them together. It was humbling. There’s always someone out there who knows more than you.”

Adams, who serves as the FYB education coordinator and teaches welding at FYB’s bike shop, said the kids enjoyed working with the LSU ME team and enjoyed watching the Tour de Patrick.

“The kids had a lot of fun with the project and have been following it since the beginning,” Adams said. “It was very affirming for the kids to know how valuable the mechanical knowledge they have earned was to this project.”


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Contact: Libby Haydel

Communications Specialist