By Adam Newman. Photos courtesy of Ethan Frier and Jonathan Ota
Two industrial design students at Carnegie Mellon University saw a problem with their peers and wanted to help, but unlike most college students, their skills and intellect helped them design and build a solution.
Like many college students, they gravitated toward cycling as adults when they arrived at school.
"Growing up in the suburbs my bike was the only real freedom I had… When I bought my bike freshman year I found that freedom again, but I also became fascinated with the bike as a machine," said Ethan Frier.
But they saw many other cyclists neglecting safety measures and soon realized that the blinking lights they often use to be seen at night are not enough to provide adequate visibility.
"More and more we began to notice the riding patterns of novice cyclists. Many would ride on the sidewalks, and even some of my roommates neglected to wear their helmets or buy (or even turn on) their front headlamp and rear blinky," said Jonathan Ota.
So they designed and built Project Aura, a self-powered lighting system that uses a generator front hub and LED lights to not only make their bike visible, but to allow motorists to instantly process what they are seeing is a bike, something that doesn’t always happen with a single light source, though Ota reiterates that the Project Aura was never meant to replace front and rear lights, merely to compliment them.
"We are industrial designers and our job is to figure out what people need and design something that will help those issues," Ota said. " ,The SURG allowed us to work on a project outside of the standard design curriculum and apply concepts and skills we were learning and had learned to create a helpful product."
The duo would love to develop Project Aura into a consumer-ready product, but school comes first.
"We would hate to shove it in a shed somewhere, but because we are only going to be juniors, we don’t want the business aspect of the project to consume the rest of our time at CMU," Ota said.
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