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A Bike For Leah

Leah Xiao-Chan O’Keefe wanted a “big kid” bike that could shift gears. But she was born with fingers that did not extend past the first knuckle, so braking comfortably or safely was impossible.

When Ohio State University mechanical engineering professor Blaine Lilly heard Leah’s story, he knew how to make her wish come true. Two of his students, Paul Scudieri, a doctoral student in integrated systems engineering, and Kyle Russ, who was pursuing a master’s degree in mechanical engineering, wanted to experience taking an idea from blueprint to real product. Both also were bicyclists.

The result: A bike outfitted with a lever-and-hydraulic-brake system that Leah could operate.

The process was was more difficult than initially imagined and involved hunting down a small women’s bike – a Giant Rincon – that was being discontinued. There were only seven in the nation. A local bike store helped locate one and donated accessories. After many wooden prototypes, Play-Doh models of Leah’s hands, and conference calls with engineers at brake manufacturer SRAM, the brake lever and the bike were finally ready. Leah awoke on Christmas morning to her custom-made bike.

This project helped Russ land his dream job as a biomechanical engineer with Trek Bicycle Corp. in Wisconsin after graduation.

Read the full article here.


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