There are several student associations at TU Delft that are local chapters of larger European and global student organizations – AEGEE, AIESEC, BEST, ESN, IAESTE, just to name a few. These associations organize several social events throughout the year and provide options for students to do something other than studying. I can really vouch for the requirement of such study breaks (…as if it isn’t the most natural thing ever for a student!)
One of them, the Board for European Students of Technology, or BEST Delft, organized one such event this March involving the creation of a bicycle. Yes, you heard that right – creating a bi- (or multi-) cycle! In association with an organization named Leren Doen (“Learning by Doing”) BEST arranged their annual EBEC in Den Haag, and the challenge involved finding whatever we could from a given scrapyard and coming up with a bicycle-like contraption.
I teamed up with three other peers from TU Delft, and thus set into motion our group of bike experts (…who were doing such a thing for the first time ever).
The expectation was that we had to build a (stable) bicycle which could seat a human without collapsing, and also which could also move around on a predetermined “test track” – and the seat had to be as high as 140 cm above the ground (perhaps that’s higher than the country’s average altitude)!
And of course, all of this using items from Leren Doen’s stock of scrap resources!
Any engineering project requires a careful formulation of the stated requirements into component-level limitations and designs that involve the integration of multiple components following a structured process with multiple iterations…
…and we did none of that. It was a “hackathon”, so there were very harsh time constraints! Six hours to design, assemble, and test a working model are not enough, ideally!
We were provided all the necessary hand tools, a workbench, and a welding facility as well! It was a good way of getting our hands dirty, both figuratively and literally (that stubborn grease wouldn’t leave my palm for the next few days!)
The approach we followed involved rummaging through the scrapyard and stocking up as much as we thought would be necessary later on, then drawing out our ideas on paper and trying to gauge intuitively if those would work, and converging to a model to be implemented. Once it was ready on paper, it was time to build it!
What followed was four hours of running around, getting metallic components welded, breaking things, assembling, and some interim table tennis as well!
Personally speaking, without a doubt, metal-cutting and welding turned out to be much more exciting than I’d imagined!
Our “thing” was able to take some weight and didn’t collapse! It wasn’t able to offer the smoothest of rides, but it worked!
We didn’t win the competition, but felt quite rewarded by the fact that we did manage to build the thing nearly from scratch!
In the process we got to meet students from other faculties, from BEST Delft (who did a great job of organizing the whole event!), and also the friendly staff at Leren Doen (from whom we got to learn a lot!). It was a Saturday well-spent on something other than studies, and was a very satisfying experience indeed!