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Five mechanical engineering students at the University of Cincinnati are working to create an accessible butt-operated (yes, you read that correctly) bicycle brake for their capstone project.

Earlier this month, the students were challenged to create a hydraulic brake for a road or mountain bike. Cyclists will slide back onto the seat to activate the brake.

The students are creating the brake using previous prototypes provided by the Quality of Life Plus Program (QL+) — a national nonprofit organization that provides equipment for veterans in need of physical assistance.

The project is still in the early stages. However, the group recently met with Jon Monett, chairman of QL+, as well as various other employees.

Fifth-year mechanical engineering student Tim Jones said he chose to pursue the project because he is an active cyclist who loves helping others experience the joys of riding a bike.

“Right now, we are in the idea [and] design process where we are evaluating previous designs to see where we can make improvements,” Jones said. “We are also studying the functions of hydraulic brakes to understand how we will incorporate this aspect into the design.”

Jones leads the team and is responsible for scheduling, leading communication and gathering resources — like the bike frame and brake models — for testing purposes. His love for machines — a passion he’s had since childhood — led him to the project.

“My grandfather was a mechanical engineer at UC and is a big reason [why] I went that route,” Jones said. “From a young age, I have always been fascinated with machines with moving parts and trying to figure out how they work — bikes being one of those things.”

Jones’ role on the team is highly specified, while others’ roles are more flexible. Joshua Baker, another fifth-year mechanical engineering student, helps with a little of everything. His role is to provide technical support and assist with designing, testing and building the system. His passion for engineering also stems from his childhood.

“I have wanted to be a mechanical engineer since high school,” said Baker. “I took multiple engineering classes in high school, and I really enjoyed everything about it.”

The project’s mission struck close to home for Baker, who said he has many family members who are active-duty or veterans of the U.S. military.

“I chose this project because Quality of Life Plus helps many veterans with disabilities,” he said. “This hits me hard, because many people in my family are veterans or are currently serving.”

Mechanical engineering students Jones, Baker, Kyle Rickett, Brian Heldman and Davis Schulte are in the early stages of constructing the brake. The team receives financial and technical support from QL+. Dr. Joni Torsella, associate professor of electrical engineering and computer science, will advise the students throughout the project.


David Rees has been with The News Record since 2018 as chief reporter, features editor, managing editor and now editor-in-chief. He previously interned at CityScene Media Group, Cincinnati Magazine, VMSD Magazine and Columbus Monthly.