Iowa State University nameplate

News Service
Gold bar
Today's News
News releases
ISU homepage


Scott Openshaw, Mechanical Engineering, (515) 294-4968
Jess Comer, Mechanical Engineering, (515) 294-3097
Skip Derra, News Service, (515) 294-4917


AMES, Iowa -- Kia Jordan of Ellsworth is getting a new tricycle for Christmas. But the new tricycle is more than just a shiny new toy for the 8-year-old. It will help her gain mobility, become more independent and allow her to ride bikes with her big brother, Tyler.

The modified tricycle has been the focus of a semester-long project by a team of Iowa State engineering students. The students basically took two bicycles and formed them into a specially designed tricycle for Kia, who suffers the physical effects of meningitis that she contracted when she was four months old.

The meningitis left Kia with limited use of her legs and one of her arms. Because of this, use of a standard tricycle, as well as tricycles specifically developed for people with physical disabilities, were lacking. In stepped the Iowa State students.

From 2 - 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 18, eighteen projects will be on display on the ground level floor of the Black Engineering building on the Iowa State campus. The projects will be presented by the student teams (freshman and senior) who developed them. Kia will be at the open house along with her mother, Lisa, and father, Andy, as well as her grandmother, ISU employee Deanna Jordan.

These 18 projects are the work of more than 70 Iowa State students. Many of them will be used to benefit those who face physical challenges.

For Kia, it was her grandmother Deanna who brought the child and the Iowa State students together. Deanna Jordan had heard about the engineering design class that focuses on physical assist devices led by Scott Openshaw and Jess Comer.

"I told Scott about Kia and after the first day of class he contacted me to say they had chosen Kia as one of the subjects," Jordan said.

"This is basically a new design for a tricycle," said Openshaw, who directs the freshman design class that developed the tricycle. "Kia needed a recumbent tricycle, so she wouldn't be sitting so high. The team basically took two bicycles, cut them in half and welded the two back pieces together and used one front piece to make it into a tricycle."

The new tricycle allows Kia to pedal more easily than her old bike. The drive sprockets gear the system down so that it is not so hard to pedal the bike, Openshaw explained. The seat is adjustable so she can get optimal leverage with her feet. The pedals are modified to strap her feet in with Velcro.

The student team met with Kia twice during the project -- once to assess her physical limitations and a second time to videotape her riding a tricycle designed for children with physical disabilities.

"The video tape showed what that tricycle did and didn't do for Kia," Openshaw said.

Openshaw added that other projects that will be on display Wednesday include:
  • A modified "Big Wheel" designed for a child who has a prosthetic leg and who had difficulties riding a standard version of the plastic tricycle.
  • An audio stimulation board designed to allow children to enjoy the learning experience of audio stimulation using sounds, music, etc. The device integrates switches and other control devices they will use throughout their lives.
  • An exercise unit developed for a 3-year old girl with limited mobility and vision. The design will allow her to sit at a worktable and control the motion to orient herself for her activities and interaction with others.


Iowa State University
... Becoming the Best
Ames, Iowa 50011, (515) 294-4111
Published by: University Relations,
Copyright © 1995-2002, Iowa State University of Science and Technology. All rights reserved.