April 2, 2009
By: Deborah Johnson Wood
Grand Valley State University’s Design, Optimization, Evaluation and Redesign (DOER) Center and Grand Rapids-based WizWheelz, maker of the TerraTrike, have set in motion a partnership to bring a lower cost TerraTrike to market.
The DOER Center, part of GVSU’s School of Engineering on the Grand Rapids Pew Campus, is a state-of-the-art engineering facility where students work on real-life engineering problems, usually with a corporate partner. WizWheelz contacted the center for help designing and producing a prototype dropout so TerraTrike owners could easily convert from 20-inch to 26-inch wheels, and vice versa.
“I literally doodled this out on a piece of paper,” says Jack Wiswell, co-founder of WizWheelz with Wayne Oom. “The student drew a 3-D model, took it to a CNC (computer numeric controlled) machine and cut the prototype part in just two days. We were flabbergasted because they turned it around so fast; it normally takes a month. We had it to market in six weeks.”
That success led to the development of a spring 2009 engineering class to develop a lower cost TerraTrike. The current entry level trike runs $999.
“We need to get something to market that’s a lot less expensive, like in the $500 range,” Wiswell says. “Every time we lower our price our market expands exponentially.”
The students are working on a less expensive type of wheel and a less expensive braking system. They’re researching the cost of existing products versus the cost of manufacturing proprietary pieces and will try to build prototype pieces.
“They’ll give us a dog-and-pony show at the end of the class and we’ll decide where to go from there,” Wiswell says. “We’ve been in business for 13 years and we feel like we’ve seen it all, but these students bring young eyes to it and a new energy.”
Source: Jack Wiswell, WizWheelz