Capstone Project Puts Student on Wheels

Sam Durst is like most Utah Valley State College students. He's 22, takes business classes and stays active — skiing, bowling, riding horses and even rappelling.

But he's got a leg up on a lot of his fellow students. He already has a product he and his brother are readying for market, thanks to several engineering students at Brigham Young University .

Durst has cerebral palsy, and despite skiing on weekends with his family, he hasn't been able to join in family bike rides for a decade. Three years ago, the Dursts learned about BYU's Capstone project, part of a senior course each mechanical engineering student must take to graduate. The students work on real products for Ford, Boeing, Thiokol and medical device companies. They also engage in community-related projects, and in 2002 a team of five students agreed to tackle Durst's request — create a portable bike trailer big enough for him and light enough for his parents, Roger and Christine, to pull him around.

The Dursts also wanted a trailer that could be transformed into a stroller.

"If we go on a ride as a family and decide to go get ice cream or something, we wanted to be able to unhitch it from the bike and push him in (inside the store)," Christine Durst said.

That was a tall order. Nothing like it existed and the first prototype had some problems typical to engineering projects. Capstone director and mechanical engineering professor Robert Todd refused to leave it at that, and during the summer of 2003 graduate student James Chatterley, 32, asked former LDS mission companion Kyle Hansen, an MBA student with a mechanical engineering degree, to help him solve the problems with the original prototype. The problems were solved and Sam truly enjoyed his newfound freedom to bike with the family. 

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