Students’ bamboo bike company benefits disabled in Africa

 

Derrick Loud cuts bamboo to make a bike for BooGood Bicycles, a start-up company founded by ASU students that donates a bike to a disabled individual in Africa for every bike they sell. (Photo by Jenn Allen)

BooGood Bicycles, a start-up company consisting of three ASU students and an incoming freshman, is a semi-finalist in the 2012 Dell Social Innovation Challenge.

The company primarily uses bamboo to make bicycles and hand-cycles, and was chosen out of 1,500 worldwide competitors to continue the competition on March 23.

Team leader and biomedical engineering graduate student Derrick Loud said members of the company are excited to be semi-finalists.

“At the same time, we know there are 199 other teams that were selected with only five that are going onto the finals,” Loud said. “There is no time to celebrate until we’re one of the top five teams.”

The Dell Social Innovation Challenge is a global competition that offers funds for university student entrepreneurs who want to solve world problems.

The finalists will be selected and announced on May 14.

Loud said the original idea for BooGood Bicycles came from his bioengineering capstone project. His project aimed to make wheelchair transportation easier for physically disabled individuals in developing countries.

The team found wheelchair users were unable to travel to school or work because of the rough terrain.

Team member and accountancy senior Salim Zeitoun said most developing countries do not have the proper infrastructure to support disabled people.

“Something as simple as paved roads and sidewalks can make a huge difference in someone’s life,” Zeitoun said, adding that these amenities are not commonly found in developing areas.

With the help of biomedical engineering associate professor Vincent Pizziconi, team members designed and built a prototype hand-cycle to turn any wheelchair into a hand-driven tricycle.

Loud said the hand-cycle makes transportation easier on rough terrain, but does not take away a wheelchair’s indoor use.

Another factor in designing the prototype was choosing which material to use, he said.

Bioscience High School senior and incoming ASU freshman Doug Liu helped the team members decide to use bamboo because of its affordability, sustainability and availability in developing countries.

“Bamboo is the perfect material for this,” Loud said. “It has the same tensile strength as steel, so it is very strong.”

The prototype hand-cycle was donated to a 10-year-old boy in Malawi, Africa, where it is still being used.

BooGood Bicycles operates on a “buy one, give one” principle — for every bamboo bicycle sold, the company will donate a hand-cycle to a disabled individual in Africa.

Loud said BooGood Bicycles has made one bike so far.

By entering in competitions such as the Dell Social Innovation Challenge and ASU’s Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative, Loud said he hopes the company will be able to receive funds to continue producing and donating eco-friendly hand-cycles.

“This is the primary reason why we applied to the Dell Social Innovation Challenge, so we would have enough capital to get the business off the ground,” Loud said.

If it wins the challenge, BooGood Bicycles plans to open a facility in Kenya, Africa, to manufacture hand-cycles and bicycles to be sold to locals or shipped to the U.S.

He said the company plans to sell a minimum of 50 bamboo bikes in its first year once it has sufficient funds.

The prices for a bike will range from $599.99 to $849.99, depending on how much bamboo is used.

Customers will also have the option of taking a class for $499.99 where they can build their own bike frame.

Team member and accountancy senior Kris Saunders said the bikes have a huge selling potential.

“I initially loved the idea of producing a product from sustainable and eco-friendly material,” Saunders said. “Not only do the bikes have a green aspect to them, but they are also great-looking bikes.”

Loud said the company will be promoting its products and business philosophy at different ASU events next year.

“Our overall goal is to help as many physically disabled individuals as we can,” Loud said. “I am truly dedicated to our mission to help people in need, so we will never give up. There are too many people that are depending on us.”

Reach the reporter at aklee8@asu.edu