This was my Mechanical Engineering senior design project completed over Spring semester 2017. I worked together with Nicholas Amend, Daniel Strohmetz, Jeremy Hasian, and Thomas Stefany. Our task was to create a product prototype that solved a challenge of our choosing.

My role in this project was the team leader, head of industrial and visual design, as well as report writer and editor.

The Challenge

We collectively noticed that there was a big problem of Bike theft on our campus. Every member of our group had had their bike stolen or had a friend with the same unfortunate experience. After some research, we realized it wasn’t just us or our campus; this was a universal problem on college campuses and city streets alike. We wanted to come up with a way to cut down on bike theft with a new locking solution.

The Process

Our first step (after market research to verify the need for a solution) was to research existing solutions. We found unbreakable titanium locks, stationary and secure systems, redesigned bike racks, bike-share smart systems, and basic everyday locks. We noticed that none of the solutions covered all of the bases: convenient, secure, and inexpensive.  We set out on our design process with these pillars as our guide.

Per the engineering design process, we started with a function tree:

From our tertiary functions, we created a Morph chart as a method of brainstorming solutions to individual functions.

To further assess the possibilities, customer and engineering requirements were analyzed and compiled into a spec sheet.  We then combined the most fitting function solutions into product ideas, which were sketched and roughly 3D modeled using SolidWorks. We then created cardboard models of our favorite 3 options to assess the feasibility and get a feel for the ergonomics of each solution.

The Solution

The winning idea was a smart, modular system with locking pins that would attach to existing stand-alone bike racks. The solution would have a locking mechanism located inside of a hollow metal beam that would lock two secure pins in place. These pins would go through the frame and front wheel of the bike providing maximum security. After many iterations, we arrived at the final BikeBolt product:

The system would function in the following way:

We included a buzzer and two LED's in the RFID cap to indicate the locking state to the user. If someone tries to unlock a system with an invalid card, they will get a red light. If they successfully lock or unlock their bike, the user will get a green light and a buzzer.

The physical shape of the system was designed with the user in mind. We wanted the RFID reader to be easily accessible, so it was placed at the most natural access point. The geometry of the angled bay was made to fit and secure all bike sizes, and the width of the entryway is easily maneuverable. The locking bar is a familiar concept for users to understand, as it is roughly based off of the concept behind a U-lock.  

Inside the steel beam closest to the rack attachment, there was a set of stowed electronics that utilized an Arduino chip and connected a set of solenoids to an RFID sensor located in a plastic cap.

A simplified circuit diagram

This mechanism would be mounted on a slide in mount for easy installation and maintenance. Additionally, the solenoid locking mechanism would be fail-secure. This means that if the power were to run out or disconnect(which would be extremely rare with our solar backed battery), your bike would stay locked instead of releasing. After doing a small crowd survey, we learned that people would rather keep their bike safe than avoid a maintenance hassle.

The Prototype

We constructed our prototype over a 4-week span in Georgia Tech’s competition workshop (huge thanks to Wreck Racing for letting us in on your tools!). It involved many studio hours, welds and rewelds, steel splinters, soldering, wiring and a healthy amount of coffee.

Not only did I learn a little about metal production and welding, but this process taught me the value in iteration, failure, and perseverance. We encountered many a roadblock, and these challenges surfaced true creative problem-solving. Fixing problems within the confines of our materials, tools, budget and time brought our team together to create a final product even better than we had originally planned.  

Our final design and prototype accomplished improvements on our original three main goals and more!

We ended the semester presenting our work at the Capstone Expo and we couldn’t have been more proud!

The team!

I can provide our final report upon request or you can download the poster that I created for our Capstone Expo!

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