Iowa college students help boy without most of arm ride bike

IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) — An 8-year-old boy who was born without most of his right arm was able to learn to ride a bicycle thanks to the ingenuity of four University of Iowa biomedical engineering students.

Jonny Cole was having difficulty learning to ride because neither he nor his father, Douglas Cole, could figure out how to keep him balanced long enough to move a bike forward, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.
Douglas, a Ph.D. student in linguistics at the University of Iowa, asked the university’s machine shop last summer to help him design and 3-D print an adaptive device that would help Jonny ride. They referred him to the biomedical engineering program, where four students decided to help.

Photo courtesy of University of Iowa: Kirk Murray. 

Alicia Truka, Kylie Hershberger, Mitchell Miller and Nathaniel Witt took on the challenge for their yearlong project as seniors.
“This was actually all of our first choice,” said Alicia Truka, a member of the group. “We saw the project and we immediately wanted to help this kid. Who wouldn’t want to help a kid?”

The project required design and production work as well as weekly meetings with Jonny to ensure that the prototype would be something he would want to use regularly.

Photo courtesy of University of Iowa: Kirk Murray. Jonny Cole smiles as he tests out the assistive device that allows him to better ride a bicycle. Alicia Truka, one of the four biomedical engineering students who designed the device, follows Jonny as he rides. Photo by Kirk Murray.

“We learned where he didn’t like prosthetics, so we couldn’t have a firm attachment to him,” Truka said. “So it was just a collaboration with all of us coming to meetings and throwing ideas at each other.”

Truka said the group developed a “one-jointed arm for his bike.” The handlebar attachment helps him balance and steer.

“Our goal is to make all the models and the computer designs public record, so if someone wants to make this for their child, they can,” Truka said. “We just want to help people.”

Jonny Cole smiles as he tests out the assistive device that allows him to better ride a bicycle. Alicia Truka, one of the four biomedical engineering students who designed the device, follows Jonny as he rides. Photo by Kirk Murray.
Three engineering students (Alicia Truka-female in yellow shirt, Kylie Hershberger-female in gray shirt, Mitch Miller-male in gray shirt) spent an academic year designing and building a bicycle handle so a child with one arm could ride a bike on his own.Three engineering students (Alicia Truka-female in yellow shirt, Kylie Hershberger-female in gray shirt, Mitch Miller-male in gray shirt) spent an academic year designing and building a bicycle handle so a child with one arm could ride a bike on his own.