to the Observer
By Jeremy Henderson
Former Auburn basketball player Gary Godfrey just attended his third Bo Bikes Bama event.
Apparently, he didn’t get the memo.
A Godfrey, an industrial engineering graduate in 1986 who played alongside Charles Barkley as the Tigers reached Elite 8 before embarking on a highly successful 30-year career in logistics and brand management consulting, in 2019 is Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) was diagnosed.
ALS degrades nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. It causes loss of muscle control and paralysis. It should stop you from doing things like completing a 20-mile charity bike ride.
But that wasn’t the case, thanks to 13 students from Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering who said “yes” to the challenge.
Last week, a senior design team consisting of eight mechanical engineering seniors, one industrial master’s volunteer student, three mechanical engineering graduate teaching assistants, and one university teaching assistant completed an adaptive bicycle designed by students who it could accommodate Godfrey and vehicle operator, Chuck Smith, an experienced cyclist who has known Godfrey for years. The team was supervised by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Kyle Schulze and professor of mechanical engineering Jordan Roberts, who is also director of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Design and Manufacturing Lab.
For an initial test ride, the team contacted Auburn senior tight end Luke Deal, who at 6ft 5in 260lb could nearly replicate Godfrey’s 6ft 8in 290lb frame. Deal’s father Chris was diagnosed with ALS in early 2021.
The bike is a modified cargo e-bike with a custom frame that includes a hot-swappable battery for continuous operation. Godfrey sat firmly in the front of the bike between two 20-inch tires pushed by the motorized rear wheel and was monitored by three primary sensors – two GoPro cameras and a “twitch switch” – which allowed his support team to monitor his vital signs during the race. The contraction switch was attached to Godfrey’s cheek and connected to a system of lights and sirens that allowed him to signal the team via the slight facial mobility it sustains if he was in danger. He was secured to a racing seat with a five-point harness and his head was supported by a HANS device typical of motorsport safety.
“Building the bike for Gary was a great experience because it was an example of a real-world design and construction process – we were working tightly with a large group,” said Joshua McCreight, senior mechanical engineering, head of project. “I’m really happy we made it in time for Gary to participate in Bo Bikes Bama. We made a commitment to finish it, not just because it was our senior design project, but because it’s a great way to share the positive impact of Gary’s story. “
Starting and finishing at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Godfrey and Smith completed the event’s 20-mile course in approximately two hours.
Godfrey and his wife Carol, also a graduate of industrial and systems engineering from Auburn in 1986, first approached college on the project late last year.
“We weren’t willing to give up on the things we love just because of a bad break,” Carol said. “Gary has ALS, but ALS doesn’t have Gary.”
Begun in 2011, Bo Bikes Bama is an annual charity run led by two-sport legend Bo Jackson to benefit the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund. This year’s race was the first in person since 2019.
Before the race, Auburn University President-elect Chris Roberts, former dean of Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, along with Auburn University football coach Bryan Harsin and Auburn Mayor Ron Anders, gave Godfrey a brief demonstration of skills. of the bike.
“This project and this day represent the full circle of Auburn’s mission of education, research and awareness,” said Roberts. “The bike worked incredibly well. I am so proud of these students and so happy for Gary. This is what the Auburn family is about.
Godfrey said he agrees.
“Thanks to these engineering students from Auburn,” Godfrey said through the speech generation device he controls with his eyes, “I got to feel the wind in my face again.”