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Northland College students design and construct handcycle

Like any other six-year-old boy, Roy Cook of Ashland wanted to learn to ride a bike. But because Roy was born with a condition called spina bifida, he relied solely on a wheelchair for mobility.

That all changed April 15 when Northland College students and faculty presented a handcycle to Roy and his family, and Roy was able to ride it around the parking lot at the Northern Great Lakes Visitor’s center.

“The project truly was a community effort,” said Ms. Cindy Dillenschneider, outdoor education professor at Northland College.

Handcycles, which have three wheels and are propelled by users’ arms, exist but are prohibitively expensive, Dillenschneider said.

Northland rallied a group of students to help design and construct a handcycle for Roy. Seniors Ms. Lynn Dohrmann and Mr. Zeke Roth-Reynolds, junior Mr. Stuart Schmidt, and sophomore Ms. Olivia Garceau comprised the “Adaptive Bike Team.”

The team struck gold at the start when Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute in Duluth donated an older, adult-sized handcycle.

The team then met with the physical and occupational therapists from Roy’s school to figure out what kind of modifications would have to be made in order to accommodate Roy.

The primary goal was to provide Roy with a handcycle, but another objective was to build relationships and foster community connections. “We hoped to give Roy a greater sense of independence and to build on a blueprint for effective community engagement on behalf of the college,” Schmidt said.

In addition to the contribution from Courage Kenny Rehabilitation Institute, Bay City Cycles provided new tires at a discount, and Fast Lane Motor Sports shop provided space and materials for the modifications that had to be made.

The adaptive bike succeeded on all accounts. “Roy was quick to tell everyone about his ambitious plans to ride it home,” said Schmidt. The project demonstrates how Northland College students are putting their education into practice in a most beneficial way.