In fewer than three years, Velovations, Michigan Tech’s Bicycle Design Enterprise, has already tallied over twenty industry supported research and development projects. Our students (undergraduate and graduate) and faculty have worked with SRAM, Pearl Izumi, Saris, Cane Creek, Rolf Prima, RockyMounts, World Bicycle Relief, and others in the bicycle industry. We have worked closely with engineers, designers, and executives at these companies to co-create products that are actually coming to the market. Students have become well versed in innovating products from need understanding all the way through to tooling, including invention disclosures, costing, and industrial design. Students have used their backgrounds in Mechanical Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical and Electrical Technology, Exercise Science, Computer Science, Computer Engineering, Civil Engineering, and Social Sciences in combination with a structured innovation process that borrows heavily from our undergraduate course in capstone design and our graduate course in design thinking to add value to the bicycle industry.
These three years have led us to a very new model for a design experience; one that is both rewarding for students and faculty and challenging to the status quo of research and student projects at universities. The purpose of this paper is to share lessons learned in our program and look towards replication in other industries.