Engineering Students Craft Custom Bike So Man With ALS Can Feel The Wind On His Face.

Once an Auburn Tiger, always an Auburn Tiger.

Back in 1986, Gary Godfrey was an industrial engineering student at Auburn University in Alabama. He was also an athlete who rubbed shoulders with NBA great Charles Barkley on the basketball team. Gary met his wife Carol, also an Auburn alumna, and had a successful career in logistics for 30 years before he was diagnosed with ALS in 2019.

ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, causes loss of muscle control and paralysis. Gary now communicates using the muscles in his face and gets around in a wheelchair. He also just completed a 20-mile bike ride to raise money for ALS research — with a little help from students at his alma mater.

Thirteen students at Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering made Gary’s goal of cycling in Bo Bikes Bama their senior project. With the charity bike race in mind, the student team worked together for about a year to create a custom-made adaptive bike that could accommodate Gary’s 6’5″, 260-pound frame.

The bike enables Gary to sit safely in the front of the bike between two large tires while being monitored by three sensors, including two GoPro cameras and a “twitch switch.” Gary’s support team uses these sensors to monitor his vital signs as he rides, interpreting the twitches in Gary’s cheek in case he needs to stop for any reason. Behind him, his friend Chuck Smith does the steering and pedaling.

Students who worked on the project say they did so both to raise awareness of ALS, and to support a fellow Auburn alum and his mission to “live with ALS.” On April 23, Gary and Chuck hit the streets in the students’ creation. They finished the race in about two hours!

The project provided seniors with an example of how their work directly impacts the lives of others.

Project team lead Joshua McCreight, a mechanical engineering senior, explained, “Building the bike for Gary was a great experience because it was an example of a real-world design and build process — we were working on a tight schedule with a big group.”

Auburn University President-elect Chris Roberts agreed, adding, “This project and this day represents the full circle of the Auburn mission of education, research, and outreach. The bike ran incredibly well. I’m so proud of these students and so happy for Gary. This is what the Auburn Family is all about.”

“Thanks to these Auburn Engineering students, I got to feel the wind in my face again,” Gary said via voice translator after the race.

This is such a fantastic way to show support for those students who went before them. Well done, Auburn students!

Share this story to congratulate Auburn engineering students for getting Gary back on the road.

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