Fourth year physics student Erod Baybay is passionate about cycling and wants to make a difference for his fellow Hokies. As a member of Virginia Tech’s chapter of Design for America, he saw an opportunity to use his talents to create an initiative that fuses those interests.

Design for America is a national network of students that employ a human-centered design process to create social change. Last year, Baybay and fellow Design for America members Justin Redman, Josh Stutton, and Dalton Philips created Bikesburg, an initiative to promote bicycling as an alternative mode of transportation.

“We thought this could potentially apply to all students on campus and we could make an impact,” said Baybay.

The Bikesburg team of undergraduate physics, engineering, and urban studies majors meet weekly in the University Libraries Fusion Studio to research, create, and innovate with the goal of increasing the safety and popularity of bicycling as a way for students to commute to class and across town.

“In the beginning, we conducted research and gathered information about cycling at Virginia Tech and in the Town of Blacksburg,” said Baybay. “We cooperated with Blacksburg and the Office of Alternative Transportation on campus to create a 15-year bicycle plan.”

As a part of Bikesburg, the group created and distributed informational materials to raise awareness of cycling resources on campus and helped promote the roam NRV bikeshare program.

Throughout the students’ work, Sara Sweeney Bear, Fusion Studio Manager, has been their mentor and advocate. “She has helped us refine how we present ourselves and reach out to the community. She has created an atmosphere for us to collaborate better,” said Baybay.

“Most of the student groups in this space are working on projects that are not a part of a class,” said Bear. “They take something they’re interested in and good at and create something new to make a difference. All of the groups are so creative and take different approaches to problem solving.”

The Fusion Studio enables students to take risks and build resilience to move forward and not give up. Currently, there are six groups using the Fusion Studio located on the second floor of Newman Library. The projects vary widely including the development of a portable electric keyboard, the invention of a new sensor to read the core temperature of objects, a tool to help combat panic attacks, and a video program that documents students’ travel abroad experiences for inclusion in their ePortfolios.

“I know that the groups are helping each other ideate because they help me. They are interested in what I do and give me feedback on the services we provide in the studio,” said Bear. “The space itself is a prototype and is always changing. There’s not really anything like this.”

Bear’s research centers on the role of play in adult learning. “So often if you can integrate play into work, you can get a lot more out of both. Play gives permission to take risks. Through this environment and the technology and creative resources that fill this space, students are able to freely brainstorm, create, and innovate.”

Student groups apply to work in the Fusion Studio, and if accepted could receive funding from the University Libraries based on their project needs.

Baybay’s group, now in its second year in the studio, is also working with the University Libraries 3D Design Studio. Engineering students in the team created a 3D model in CAD for a universal mold for bike reflectors. They will print the mold using 3D Design Studio printers.

“This is an excellent way to create prototypes quickly. We always ideate and prototype before we move to the final product,” said Baybay. “We hope to have the reflectors created by the end of the semester. We will give these reflectors to students so they are safer on the roads.”