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Former Auburn basketball player Gary Godfrey will participate in his third Bo Bikes Bama charity event on Saturday thanks to a senior design team of mechanical engineering students from Auburn University’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering who say “yes” to the challenge.
Godfrey, a 1986 industrial engineering graduate who played alongside Charles Barkley as the Tigers reached the Elite 8 before embarking on a highly successful 30-year career in logistics and brand management consultancy, received diagnosed with ALS in 2019. He can no longer walk. He can no longer speak.
“But, thanks to those Auburn engineering students,” Godfrey said through the speech-generating device he controls with his eyes, “I can still feel the wind in my face.”
Last week, the 13-person team of eight mechanical engineering seniors, one industrial master’s volunteer student, three mechanical engineering graduate teaching assistants and one undergraduate teaching assistant completed a custom, student-designed adaptive bike that could accommodate Godfrey, who is 6 feet 8 inches tall, and the vehicle’s driver, Chuck Smith, an experienced cyclist who has known Godfrey for years. The team was supervised by assistant professor of mechanical engineering Kyle Schulze and senior lecturer in mechanical engineering Jordan Roberts, director of the engineering design and manufacturing laboratory.
Launched in 2011, Bo Bikes Bama is an annual charity ride led by dual-sports legend Bo Jackson to benefit the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund. The route includes a 60-mile course and a 20-mile course; Godfrey and Smith will run the 20-mile course, which begins and ends at Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“Building the bike for Gary was a great experience as it was an example of a real-world design and build process – we were working on a tight schedule with a large group,” said Joshua McCreight, senior mechanical engineer. , project team leader. “I’m really pleased that we finished in time for Gary to compete in Bo Bikes Bama. We were determined to complete it, not just because it was our senior design project, but because it’s a great way to share the positive impact of Gary’s story.
Godfrey and his wife, Carol, who also earned an industrial and systems engineering degree from Auburn in 1986, first contacted the college about the project late last year.
“We’re just not willing to give up the things we love just because of a bad break like ALS,” said Carol, who will race the event’s 20-mile course option alongside Gary. “Gary’s mind is sharper than ever, allowing him to dream up ideas like riding a bike again.”
After two hectic semesters of nearly nonstop work, that idea is now a reality in the form of a modified cargo e-bike with a custom frame that includes a hot-swappable battery for continuous operation. Godfrey will sit securely in an enclosure at the front of the bike between two 20-inch tires pushed by the motorized rear wheel.
The bike is equipped with three main sensors – two GoPro cameras and a so-called “twitch switch” – which will allow Godfrey’s support team, including Carol, to monitor her vital signs during the race. The twitch switch will be attached to Godfrey’s cheek and connected to a light and siren system allowing him to signal the team via the slight facial mobility he maintains if he is in distress. He will be strapped into a racing seat donated by Pilcher Automotives with a five-point harness and his head will be supported by a HANS device typical of motorsport safety.
For a first round of testing, the team reached out to Auburn senior tight end Luke Deal, who at 6-foot-5 tall and 260 pounds could almost duplicate the 6-foot-8, 290 frame. Godfrey books. Deal’s father Chris was diagnosed with ALS in early 2021.
Celebrity pre-rides to showcase the design team’s final product will take place Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9:45 a.m. at the main entrance of Neville Arena on the campus of Auburn University. Auburn head football coach Bryan Harsin, Auburn University president-elect Christopher B. Roberts and Auburn Mayor Ron Anders will lead Godfrey along the pedestrian walkway to the center Haley to the Bo Jackson statue in front of Jordan-Hare Stadium and back.
“We are living our own version of what it means to live with ALS, and we are so grateful to the incredibly bright young people at Samuel Ginn College of Engineering who are with us on this journey,” said Carol. “Gary always challenges us to ‘make today your best day.’ So Saturday will be a better day for a lot of people.
“To call Gary Godfrey an inspiration is an understatement,” Jackson said. “Even with ALS, he’s still committed to helping others. And the students at Auburn are committed to helping him. It’s what the Auburn family is all about. I’m so glad he’s riding. again this year.
The 20-mile Bo Bikes Bama ride begins Saturday at 10 a.m. For more information, visit BoBikesBama.com.