One day while working out on a rowing machine, then Liverpool High School sophomore Nathaniel Dubiel’s mind began to wander.
A member of the LHS crew team, he knew the machine he was using was a great way to get in shape for the season, but his surroundings – just four simple walls - left much to be desired. What if, Dubiel wondered, the rowing machine could actually go somewhere?
Excited, Dubiel shared his idea with LHS technology teacher Casey Ostrander, who encouraged him to start brainstorming and sketching ideas for a prototype. Over the next year, Dubiel filled a notebook with designs he thought might work. By early 2020, Ostrander encouraged Dubiel to start building.
Then the pandemic hit and the project would have to wait.
Fast forward to this school year. Dubiel, now a senior, is a student in Ostrander’s Project Lead the Way Engineering Design and Development course, which takes everything students have learned as part of the PLTW engineering pathway and asks them to create and build a project from start to finish.
Dubiel quickly approached fellow classmates Ian DePan and Peter Bachman, asking if they would like to help with the project. Both seniors admitted they were intrigued.
“I thought it was a really cool idea and something I hadn’t really heard of before,” DePan said. “It caught my attention.”
Bachman heard about the project during a previous PLTW class and immediately knew he wanted to be a part of it.
“I was a little interested in how he could get it to work, so this year we had the class together and I thought I’d help,” Bachman added.
The three LHS seniors have spent most of this school year building, testing and brainstorming ideas for the rowing tricycle during class times and study halls.
Many of the rowing tricycle’s components have been recycled from other items, including parts from Dubiel’s old rowing machine, as well as the back half of trike that someone donated.
The most frustrating part of the project for the students has been the prototype’s steering mechanism. The trio selected four of their numerous designs and used CAD, or computer-aided design, to create and analyze each option. Of the four ideas, only two versions worked when the design finally rendered on the computer.
For now, the LHS seniors continue to work on and modify their project as often as they can.
“I think once it’s fully completed, we’ll look at it like ‘look what we’ve done’,” Bachman said.
“It just really started for me as a fun project to do, and a cool thing that I could talk about whether it be on a college application or something to have around,” Dubiel said. “I definitely plan on using this in my regular life if it turns out.”