On a late August afternoon in 2017, Simon Park was a third-year mechanical engineering student getting his homemade electric-assist motor and bicycle out of his sister’s car.
He happened to be out front of the engineering building at the University of Victoria at the same time the fourth-year mechanical engineering students were exhibiting their capstone projects. Park had created the electric-assist motor, which he built on the forks from a toddler’s bike frame, to assist his commute to and from his home in Saanich.
“No, I’m not part of the capstone project [exhibition],” Park said at the time. “Maybe next year.”
Well, it’s next year.
Park continued to pursue the electric-assist bike motor, which he named the Caboost, and in March the 21-year-old was one of three winners of the Open Innovation Challenge put on by the South Island Prosperity Project, netting a $15,000 investment in the development of the product.
Park also got the green light to offer his Caboost as a capstone project for a group of UVic mechanical engineering students this year. The Caboost Control Team showed off the new and improved Caboost at the capstone exhibition earlier this month.
Thanks in part to the Caboost, Park has been accepted for an eight-month internship at Tesla headquarters in Palo Alto, Calif., where he’ll be moving in September.
Park and the Caboost team were able to establish a major advancement in the Caboost’s existence, creating what they call the “smart control system,” which automatically pushes the bike depending on how the cyclist is riding.
“The smart control system has been the most significant development and is a huge step forward for us,” Park said. “Unlike the first prototype, this prototype does not have a manual hand throttle. It’s a really intuitive system; it feels like you’re riding slightly downhill or have really strong legs. It’s easy to ride and feels very safe.”
Park credited SIPP’s investment as instrumental in the team’s progress.
“[SIPP] helped us make connections with the community and potential partners, and their mentorship and support are a huge help,” Park said. “The winnings from the SIPP Open Innovation Challenge have enabled us to focus on the engineering and development without worrying so much about funding.
“There’s no way we could have come this far in five months without them.”
UVic’s Innovation Centre has also been supportive, Park said, helping the team with advice, making connections, and participating in the PitchIt and PlanIt competitions.
“There’s still a lot of work to do, but we’re getting closer to finishing the design and hopefully bringing Caboost to market.”