THS students design, unveil twin bike system

Thompson High School special-education student Camron Carter, left, and his teacher, Diana Wagoner, pilot a student-designed tandem bike system around the THS auxiliary gym on Feb. 19. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

Thompson High School special-education student Camron Carter, left, and his teacher, Diana Wagoner, pilot a student-designed tandem bike system around the THS auxiliary gym on Feb. 19. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – After more than five months of work, Feb. 19 was a surreal experience for Thompson High School freshman engineering student Connelly Brown and his classmates.

“That was the first time we saw it in action,” Connelly said a few minutes after the students watched THS special-education student Camron Carter and his teacher, Diana Wagoner, ride around the THS auxiliary gymnasium on a twin bicycle system. “That was really cool.”

Since the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, students in THS engineering teacher Brain Copes’ class have been working to design a system to allow special-needs students, blind individuals and those with disabilities to experience the thrill of riding on a bicycle.

Through the project, the students created a kit of brackets, steel bars and connectors designed to join two bikes to each other side-by-side. Once the kit is installed, the joined bikes’ steering, acceleration and braking can be controlled from one bicycle.

The bikes used with the first kit were donated by Clem Muck with CTR Bikes.

Carter said one of the most challenging aspects of creating the kit, which was done entirely at THS, came when trying to design brackets to fit nearly any size or type of bike.

“We had to design it so it would fit all different types of bikes, and design it so both bikes would still function properly,” Carter said, noting Feb. 19 was the first time the students saw their creation in action.

The engineering students’ hard work did not go unnoticed.

“When I look at this and see the way it operates, it’s an engineering marvel,” said UAB School of Engineering professor Dr. Lee Moradi, noting UAB soon will partner with THS to offer students hands-on experience with a collegiate engineering program.

Alabaster School Superintendent Dr. Wayne Vickers called the THS engineering program a “shining light” in the school district.

“I love (Copes’) ingenuity and his passion for the students,” Vickers said. “This is why we have this program, so the students can see what it’s all about.”

The engineering students will now work with Dr. Duana Shears and CTR Bikes to market the twin bike kit.

“There is a niche out there for this,” Copes said. “I am proud of this group for what they’ve accomplished.”