In what may be a rare occasion, a homework assignment at the University of Colorado became a joyous event on Saturday.
On top of that, students were able to give back with the assignment as it provides children with disabilities an opportunity to ride bikes.
Hundreds gathered Saturday in the courtyard in front of Durning Laboratory for CU's Design Expo and Adaptive Bicycle Run-Off. Students from Daria Kotys-Schwartz's component design class were assigned a project at the beginning of the semester to assemble bikes for disabled children.
Kotys-Schwartz, a CU mechanical engineering instructor, said her 130 students split into 27 teams of roughly five members per group. The teams had 13 weeks and a $300 budget to build bikes specific to a child's needs.
"The most rewarding part of this experience is to see families have the opportunity to give their children bikes that you can't find in stores and insurance often doesn't pay for," Kotys-Schwartz said.
She said her class is made up of primarily juniors, and often, this is their first hands-on design project. She said her goal is to prepare students to become engineering professionals in a short time by giving them the hands-on experience she felt was lacking in her undergraduate studies.
"For these students, it is their first experience seeing how engineering can benefit society," she said. "I have been telling them, though, to triple the amount of time to expect for this project. I think that is why they have been cursing me all week."
Last year, Kotys-Schwartz had her students create drill-powered vehicles. While she said the event last year was rewarding, she got feedback from the students that they wanted a project that didn't end abruptly and continued giving back.
In response, she implemented the bike-building project.
"There is a lot of pressure on these students because now their assignment is worth more than a grade," Kotys-Schwartz said. "When these students see these kids on the bikes, though, they get to see what they can do as engineers. It all comes to fruition here,"
Jeremy Gilsdore, a junior mechanical engineering major and student in Kotys-Schwartz's class, said the bike he and his team built is specifically designed for a young boy who has cerebral palsy. Considering the boy has limited movement in his feet, the team members structured their bike to be pedaled by his hands with two levers. No matter if the levers are pulled up or pushed down, the bike will move forward.
"We finally get to use the hard math to actually do something that will hopefully be beneficial to kids," Gilsdore said. "This project gives us the hands-on experience we don't often see, while giving back to kids who need bikes. I think this is the first time I've ever said I've had fun doing my homework."
Michael Stonehouse, of Highlands Ranch, came to the event with his 3-year-old twin sons, who both have several disabilities. Stonehouse said one of his sons was so excited to be able to ride a bike, he rode around for 30 minutes.
"These students were able to provide my sons mobility, excitement and happiness," Stonehouse said. "The willingness of these students to help has been so rewarding. It is nice to see this generation care."
Although the students made the event possible, this event was all about the children. Six-year-old Lorenzo Perez took every advantage of this day of bike riding.
Lorenzo has a prosthetic arm and his knees aren't fully developed. This didn't stop him from running and racing around the courtyard and testing out almost all of the bikes.
"Four groups designed bikes for Lorenzo and he is so excited to see all of them," said Dominic Dimario, a participating student who translated for Lorenzo and his family. "There is nothing better than your first bike, and it's great to see Lorenzo have this opportunity."
"My favorite bike is the Spider-Man bike," Lorenzo said. "This is so much fun and it's easy to steer too!"