Bursary student designs bicycle for the Gambia


Frustration.  It might not seem like a positive trait, but it’s the first step to identifying a problem that needs solving.  And problems lead to clever new designs. James Dyson Foundation bursary student Rob Bye spotted an opportunity during his final year at Brunel University.

Students in the Gambia can travel long distances to school each day. Often on foot, in blistering heat – not the way to prepare for a day in the classroom. Rob dug deeper into the issue and came across a charity called Jole Rider.  Jole Rider donates bicycles to children to ease the strain of their commute to school. But there was a problem. “I noticed that the bicycles they use were designed for the European market. They don’t fare very well in the tough conditions of the Gambia, and when they break, replacement parts are difficult to get hold of” explains Rob, “I did some more digging, and decided that I wanted to design a low cost school bicycle which would be durable and made with readily available parts”.

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Rob received support from the James Dyson Foundation as part of the undergraduate bursary programme at Brunel. His project was chosen because of Rob’s passion for problem solving design – it solved a real human need. “Thanks to the James Dyson Foundation, last month I was able to get out to the Gambia.  I met with the children and the teachers and experienced the commute first hand. But crucially I met with the mechanics at Jole Rider, fixing the bicycles on a daily basis. It wasn’t about learning the mechanics of the bikes, it was about identifying the needs of emerging markets. This kind of first hand research is invaluable to my project”.

Rob is now back in the UK using what he has learnt to influence his design. By June he will have designed, built and tested his first bicycle for Gambian schoolchildren.