For Simon Park, it was the hills.
The fourth-year mechanical engineering student (with a business minor) at the University of Victoria took it upon himself to ride his bike to classes last year as part of his commitment to a sustainable lifestyle. From the Christmas Hill neighbourhood, he needed only to make his way to the McKenzie bike lane and enjoy an easy bike commute to UVic. That said, he’s no pro cyclist, and after one day he was seeking a solution to the tiring and sweat-inducing hills along the way.
“Right away I looked into electric bicycles but they are really expensive,” Park said.
Instead, the mechanically inclined 21-year-old built his own solution. He mounted a small motor and battery frame, well, part of a frame, that was rescued from a discarded kids bike. It bolts on like a set of adult training wheels. Park also wired a throttle to the handlebar that trails back to the motor.
He calls it the “Caboost,” and he hopes to one day sell them for under $500.
On Sunday, Park is one of 10 finalists who will pitch their projects to a panel of judges at the Smart South Island Open Innovation Challenge. The top three winners will win a $15,000 investment towards their project.
“It’s easy to say we should use [alternative transportation] instead of driving but it has to be easier,” Park said. “Not everyone is ready to get dressed in spandex and break a sweat.”
Park describes the Caboost as an outside-of-the-bike invention, since the new wave of electric-assist bicycles come with internal motors and batteries, while after-market electric-assist kits are mounted somewhere on the frame.
Electric-assisted bicycles are expensive, and so are the after-market kits.
Keen to take his Caboost as far as he can, Park has already found $2,800 in support – $2,500 from the Wighton Engineering Product Development Fund and another $300 from the recent UVic Pitchit innovation contest.
Sunday’s Open Innovation Challenge runs from 2 to 5 p.m. at Flury Hall in the Bob Wright Building of UVic. Nearby parking is free that afternoon.
If Park earns the $15,000 grant he will take the prototype to the next stage.
“I’d like to move from the prototype stage to the design and development stage, to create a small number of these for beta testing, and to partner with local bike shops to sell them off shelf.”