Doctoral Students Use a Bicycle to Solve a Problem in the Developing World

Julie Obenauer-Motley and Her Spinning Wheel

Doctoral students in the Seminar in Public Health class were challenged to use a bicycle to solve a problem in the developing world as a small-group project.  One group comprised of Daniel Owusu, Abraham Alhassan, Tosin Ariyo, Alexis Decosimo, Beth O’Connell and Julie Obenauer-Motley explored the potential use of a spinning wheel made from a bicycle.  Julie is an avid knitter and as such, she has both used and studied spinning wheels.  The group worked with artisan Terry Clark of Three Peaks Crafts in southeast Virginia who provided guidance on re-purposing the bicycle.  As a woodworker who owns his own craft store, he combines experience in woodworking with his knowledge of cyclery. The group worked on the project at Three Peaks Crafts and at the Valleybrook campus of East Tennessee State University.  The bicycles were donated to the ETSU College of Public Health by OmniSource.      

The group hoped that their project would produce a low-cost, easily replicable, and reliable tool for cultures who raise fiber animals in the developing world.  For example, populations of rural Mongolian nomads raise fiber animals including sheep, cashmere goats, yaks, horses and camels.  Julie pilot-tested the spinning wheel with weavers from a local guild.  They were apprehensive at first with the unfamiliar model, but they quickly mastered the process, appreciated the innovation, and suggested improvements to the design. 

Julie is still testing the wheel and adding design improvements.  She is also exploring possible organizations who may be interested in partnering to manufacture and distribute the spinning wheel.  Julie will be entering the project into the Shenandoah Valley Fiber Festival on September 26, 2015.  The festival features raw and finished fibers, fiber animals, buttons, spinning and weaving equipment, and various vendor products.    

The Seminar in Public Health class, taught by Dean Randy Wykoff, focuses on providing students with “real world” challenges that require team-work, creative thinking and problem solving, in addition to a knowledge of the methods and approaches of  public health. It employs readings, guest presentations, and group discussions to explore current trends in applied research and practice. When discussing the group’s applied research, Julie stated, "Having a class project develop into something that could positively impact lives, and the outpouring of support for my ideas, has really shown me that ETSU values my experience and cares about improving lives locally and globally. I'm really proud to be here." 

 

"Having a class project develop into something that could positively impact lives, and the outpouring of support for my ideas, has really shown me that ETSU values my experience and cares about improving lives locally and globally. I'm really proud to be here." 

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