STORY UPDATE: The open-source plans to make the bike trailers are now available online here: http://capstone.byu.edu/btj
“We’ve always had the philosophy that since our boys couldn’t do so many things, we would do everything that they could. We've done everything we can for them to have normal experiences. This trailer is going to be such a big part of that.” – Allison Mitton
If McKay Mitton had his way, he would spend every waking hour in the great outdoors. Biking, skiing, swimming, you name it; McKay loves it all.
For McKay, being active outdoors has always been a family affair, out of necessity. The 18 year old has cerebral palsy, a disorder that came when he was born three months premature, as a triplet.
Despite his disabilities, his family—including his triplet sister/BYU freshman, Abby, and his late brother Alex (who also had cerebral palsy and passed away in 2014)—has always made being outdoors a priority, whether that means using a seated bi-ski, a jogging stroller or a bike trailer. But getting McKay out on the trail has become increasingly difficult as the years go by.
“Ever since he grew out of his bike trailer we haven’t had anything because there just hasn’t been anything available,” said Allison Mitton, McKay’s mother. “We’ve looked and looked for something that fit this need and haven’t found it.”
That’s where BYU’s Capstone program comes in. A group of mechanical engineering students in the program took on the Mitton’s dilemma this year and have built an adult-sized, two-in-one bike trailer/jogging stroller for McKay.
The stroller/trailer weighs only 35 pounds, can seat someone up to 200 pounds (plenty for McKay at just 75 pounds) and was built, parts and all, for less than $650. That’s quite an achievement when the only thing on the market big enough for an adult is a $4,000 jogger that doesn’t convert into a trailer.
“It is just remarkable—we are beside ourselves with joy,” said Allison, whose husband, Todd, is a finance professor at BYU. “A bike trailer like this represents a certain amount of freedom for our family. It’s something so exciting for our family it’s hard to explain.”
And the project doesn’t end with McKay and his family. The six-student Capstone team has made the entire project open-sourced. In other words, the material list and the building instructions are all going online so anyone can make the trailer.
“Anyone that’s handy should be able to make it in their garage,” said team member Cheryl Woo, a mechanical engineering major. “We built this trailer for McKay but we want it to be for others with quadriplegic conditions too. The plans allow it to be adapted for each individual.”
A major design element is its storage-friendly nature: the entire frame folds up completely flat and each of the three wheels easily detach. Meanwhile, the seat is made out of a tear-resistant nylon fabric that can be easily tailored by a seamstress.
As for McKay, he loves the trailer. Although his motor skills are severely limited, his cognitive functions are fine and he expresses himself through facial expressions. When he’s in the trailer, his smile stretches from ear to ear.
“The Mittons just want McKay to experience things that everyone else can experience,” said team member Matthew Curtis. “We had McKay in mind every step of the way and when he sits in it and gets that big smile on his face, it makes it all worth it.”