High school science students, Obama, and a bike-powered invention

Here’s a cool news article that one of our readers pointed out to us. A group of Florida high-school students developed a bicycle-powered water purification system, entered it into the White House Science Fair, and got President Barack Obama to give it a spin:

What started out as a science assignment turned into a political science lesson on Monday, as two Northeast High students got President Barack Obama to try out their bicycle-powered invention.

Obama “test drove” the project, created by about 30 students at the Oakland Park school to help provide clean water to developing nations after a natural disaster. It was one of 30 projects on display at the White House Science Fair.

Senior Kionna Elliot, 18, and junior Payton Kaar, 16, showed off the contraption to scientists, journalists and White House officials. A photo of Obama on the bicycle was picked up by media nationwide and has become one of the most popular images from the science fair.

Read the full article by visiting its page on the Orlando Sentinel website, and take a look at this video:

I LOVE bicycle-powered inventions, and I love high school science fairs (having helped judge a couple in a previous career). These kids not only came up with something useful and smart, but they will also cherish their interaction with the President for years to come.

Any inventors among our readers? We’d love to hear of some bikey-powered schemes you’ve come up with!

LoJack/OnStar-like system for bikes?

We’ve written about fighting bike theft with GPS devices before, as well as posting about a cool web series called “To Catch a Bike Thief” where the producers set out “bait bikes” equipped with GPS trackers. It’s a neat technique to use new technologies to combat an age-old problem.

And now there’s a very interesting Kickstarter project gaining some traction. Called The BikeSpike, this device purports to:

•Monitor your bike’s location on a map using your phone or computer
•Grant temporary access to local law enforcement, helping increase the chances of recovery.
•Digitally “lock” your bike and receive a notification if your bike moves from it’s geo-fenced location or if someone even tampers with it.
•Collision detection system can alert key members of your contact list and share the location of an accident.
•Share your stats (distance, speed, and courses…) with friends, coaches and spectators.
•Monitor your children and get notified if they ride out of their safe zone.
•Our open API allows developers to create gaming and fitness apps that you can download and use with the device or use the data created from the BikeSpike to integrate with the existing apps you already love. Export a GPX file.
•PLUS, with the Hacker Pack, you can connect it to a motorcycle or other on-board batteries for a continual charge.

The website Mashable calls it “like LoJack and OnStar for your bike.”

Here’s a video that helps illustrate the workings of the device:

What do you think — a gadget worth pursuing, or is investing in a strong lock a better strategy? We’d love to hear your thoughts on BikeSpike as much as the developers would like you to help fund their project…just leave comments below.

A tip of the ol’ foam dome to longtime reader/commenter Raiyn Storm for pointing this out to us.

Smartphone allows auto shifting?

Photo: Cambridge Consultants


Manual or auto?

–a question that people often consider when buying a car. In these times of high gas prices, a lot of people do consider giving up the comfort of an automatic transmission for the sake of an extra couple miles per gallon. But what about bicycling?

I prefer to ride a single speed because they have cheaper parts to replace and are easier to maintain than a multi-geared bike but sometimes I do ride my road bike. I’m not sure if I feel like there’s a need for me to shift automatically or electronically but nonetheless it is an interesting concept.

I recently read an article on about a smartphone that enables automatic shifting via bluetooth with Shimano Di2 shifters. It was encouraging since it seems like bicycle technology is progressing and although I don’t think a lot of the technology introduced is needed, I do appreciate it because the contributions of anyone does lend to making bicycles ultimately better.

Here’s an example of what the engineers are trying to do:

“The prototype has been tested on a simulated “rolling road” with few complaints from riders, who can customize the shift points depending on what’s most comfortable. Already, engineers are working to improve the setup, with plans in the works to use the accelerometer in a smartphone to change gears in the event of emergency braking. A similar system could also prevent locking up the front wheel.”

In Bluetooth “manual mode” (I’m not sure if touching a button is any easier than “tapping” a basic shifter on a typical bike) but the system does allow collection of data to make trial runs better. The engineers also want to use GPS to inform the system of upcoming hills which enables the system to shift before you need to.

To the average commuter, a system like this would be outrageously excessive but imagine being more efficient with your commuting time. I used to take pride in riding 5 miles in less than 20 minutes but I would be sweaty from pushing myself. Not considering cost, a system like this, I think, would be welcomed on my commutes that are more than a couple of miles since I could probably commute in less time without having to push myself so hard.

To read more about it, go to

Ebay Classifieds…another way to sell a bike

Have you ever tried to sell a bike on Craigslist? RL reports decent success with it, but I’ve never had any luck. In fact, the one time I tried it, my first and ONLY response was the classic Nigerian “box up and ship your bike and I will Western-Union you $1000” scam.

Lord knows we’ve all heard horror stories about Craigslist buyers…lowballers, creeps, odd trades suggested, etc. No thanks.

I recently learned that Ebay has a free classifieds app for smartphones, so I downloaded it to try out (Ebay Classifieds is also available on the web, of course). I was contacted by the PR firm that handles Ebay Classifieds and other mobile apps, and they provided the following information:

With technology at our fingertips, the merging of social, mobile and local has help shaped e-commerce by making purchasing and selling a simple, real-time solution. This trend is reflected in the steady increase of eBay Classifieds’ mobile app users, which have just surpassed over half a million downloads – with bicycle and bicycle parts as one the most popular transactions (my emphasis).

On that note, eBay Classifieds’ mobile app is a free, seamless solution for local classifieds and listings. For users, the process is simple:

Sellers: point, shoot, sell
Buyers: download, search, purchase
Avoid scams generated from users on sites like Craigslist

What are the key features of eBay Classifieds’ mobile app solution?

FREE commerce
Local and convenient: sellers can list high value items you wouldn’t necessarily want to ship
Frictionless solution in a mobile environment: reduces the friction between listing an item (ex. bicycles, bicycle accessories) and enables people to post anywhere with their smartphone
Supports excess capacity/conscious living
Safe/family friendly

The app is quick downloading and easy to use…you can browse ads or create/post them, and it’s all free of transaction costs (and presumably Nigerian scammers). Here are a couple of screenshots I took of my phone:



The app works quickly and seems very stable so far. Creating an ad to list is easy…just follow the steps and go. Browsing listings is a piece of cake, too…select an area and a category or use keywords to search. Ebay made the interface very simple to follow.

If you’re looking to sell off a bike, or you simply like to browse classified listings for your next ride, Ebay Classifieds might be worth a look. Unfortunately, my single listing hasn’t attracted any attention from potential buyers, so, if you’re in the Dayton area and are looking for a really nice fixed-gear bike, check out my listing…wink, wink.

Use an Old Phone to Locate Lost/Stolen Bike.


The app is called Prey. It’s similar to Lojack.

You may know Lojack as the service that locates lost or stolen cars. But what about bicycles? I’m not sure if people care nor have a need for such a device, but as someone who has had a bike stolen, the Prey app for phones, laptops, and tablets is intriguing. It was created for use with an old smartphone in mind but should you have left your new device on your bike, that new device can also track the bike.

I’m sure plenty of other apps are similar to this. And other theft-deterrant options are available like ReuiniteIT by Lojack. Be sure to mention them in the comments below if you know.

Is it necessary to use an old phone? No. But the idea is, if you’re going to lose a smartphone, it might as well be your old one and not the new Iphone 5 or Samsung Galaxy S III.

Click here, to find out more about this open source anti-theft project, Prey.