New academic offering: D-Lab Cycle Ventures

On the fall of 2009, a new course is being offered as part of the D-Lab suite of classes: D-Lab Cycle Ventures.

This academic offering aims to address the growing interest in harnessing pedal power for use in many applications in the developing world. The potential of bicycle technology in the developing world stems from several sources. Bicycles have been in use for many years in much of the developing world and are therefore a known technology. They are made and distributed in large enough numbers that they represent a significant market and thus parts and repair expertise are inexpensive and available practically everywhere. They are designed to be efficient at
using human power and don’t require unsustainable sources of power. This class is thus aimed at students interested in bicycles, sustainable energy and related micro enterprises.

The class will meet two times a week, and will be a mix of lectures and hands-on activities. Lectures will be delivered by the course instructors and supplemented by guest speakers from MIT, local bicycle enterprises and the greater international development community. Lectures and readings will provide a background on the history of bicycle development, the characteristics of human power and ventures in international development.

The lead instructor for the class, Gwyndaf Jones, co-founded Merlin Metalworks, Inc, a company that introduced an innovative high strength titanium alloy bicycle frame welded from an alloy that had recently been introduced for aircraft hydraulic lines. During more than ten years at Merlin he worked on a wide range of bicycle engineering and design projects. Since 2005 he has been working in the D-Lab program as a lab instructor, trip leader and project mentor. He has traveled to Peru and Guatemala and worked with numerous local partners.