The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Students design, build bikes from scratch in UI class

Over 300 students have built a bicycle in the University of Iowa’s bicycle workshop class, and some students will head to Germany to exhibit their work.
Ava Neumaier
A University of Iowa classroom is seen in the Visual Arts Building on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023. Professor Steve McGuire teaches a bike-making class in the Visual Arts building in Iowa City and has for over a decade. McGuire and his students traveled to Germany to show their work this semester.

Some University of Iowa students work on plain metal frames and transform them into colorful and unique bikes every semester. The course, which melds engineering and art, has a long waitlist of students.

Offered to engineering and art students, the course is semester-long and teaches students how to build bicycles from scratch. It’s hosted in the bike workshop in the Visual Arts Building at 107 River St. which is equipped with large tables, bicycle frame building jigs, metal cutters, and bicycle racks.

Steve McGuire, director of the School of Art and Art History and the professor of the class, said students in the class will learn how to be patient, and take a two-dimensional drawing and turn it into a three-dimensional object.

“So they design a bike because it can be a lifelong object,” McGuire said. “It’s a course in which students are really committed to learning because, in the end, they’re going to make something that means a lot to them.”

McGuire has been teaching the class for 13 years. Over the course of those years, more than 300 students have built a bicycle within the workshop.

The class embarked on a trip to Germany this semester to exhibit at an international bike show called Eurobike, which takes place every year in Frankfort. The exhibit was a three-day show, and the class was there for a full week.

The 10-12 student class is limited because of the number of bicycle frames available. Because the class is competitive to get into, there is usually a waitlist of about eight students.

Man Ho “Billy” Cho, an instructional services specialist and workshop monitor, said the class teaches students to make a bike specifically for themselves.

“We’re talking about building a frame from the ground up. We teach them actual fabrication and problem solving and figuring out, like, what kind of bike you’re planning on building,” Cho said.

Students create their bicycles around their personal tastes and needs. Bikes can be any color, size, or design, and once the bike is built, they are able to participate in optional bike rides with their instructors
and classmates.

Students design their bikes with a software program called AutoCAD before cutting tubes made of titanium or steel. They then begin the welding process for building the frame of the bike and add the remaining parts from there.

Students typically spend 10 or more hours outside of class forming their bicycles, and when using heavy equipment, they are required to use the buddy system.

Sayre Satterwhite, an engineering student and presidential seminar teaching assistant, said the class is a large part of the reason why she came here to the UI. She added it was nice to have a creative outlet as an engineer.

Another engineering student, Ryan Braverman, shared a similar experience.

“I changed majors from business to engineering and part of that was to come to Iowa and take this class,” Braverman said. “I just love riding bikes; I like bikes. I like building bikes from class.”

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About the Contributors
Olivia Gamertsfelder, News Reporter
Olivia is a freshman student from Washington D.C. double majoring in creative writing and journalism. She is a news reporter for the Daily Iowan. Prior to this, she directed her school's literary magazine and completed two theses (please ask her about them as she is very passionate).
Ava Neumaier, Photojournalist
Ava Neumaier is a first-year student at the University of Iowa, majoring in English & Creative Writing. She was the Editor-in-Chief of her high school yearbook in New York, and has interned for a New York Times photographer. She enjoys taking pictures of performances and student life.