Georgia Tech Receives Ford College Community Challenge Grant

Grant to catalyze innovative new bike share program in partnership with Emory University

The Georgia Institute of Technology today receives a prestigious $50,000 Ford College Community Challenge Grant.  The grant, provided by the Ford Motor Company Fund, will be used to establish an innovative bike share program with bikes from Emory University’s successful bike share program.  Designed by mechanical engineering students from the Sustainable Design and Manufacturing program at Georgia Tech, this unique project creates a “kiosk-free” bike share infrastructure called “viaCycle.” Bicycles can be located and checked in and out with the use of text messages from any mobile phone, making the system incredibly easy to use.

Ford Community Challenge - Technology
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Georgia Tech students developed a distribution system for bike share programs.  The new technology, called viaCycle, tracks bikes and allows for easy distribution of bikes in an urban setting.

 The Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) is a national challenge grant competition that recognizes colleges and universities that utilize a school's resources and capacity to address an urgent, unmet social need or problem in the local community.  Proposals must address the theme of the Challenge – Building Sustainable Communities – in some unique and innovative way. Unlike many traditional college grant programs, Ford C3 requires colleges to create project proposals that have significant student input, involvement and leadership from beginning to end. Only five Ford C3 awards are made each year.

“Winning proposals have a distinctive student perspective on what it means to have a sustainable community,” said Mike Schmidt, director of Education and Community Development at Ford Motor Company Fund.  “Each year, we select five winning proposals to receive this one-time award.  The Georgia Tech-Emory proposal caught our eye since it involved a public and private university collaboration and an exciting, new approach to a bike share program.”  

For the winning proposal, Georgia Tech and Emory University combined the successful Bike Emory program with the student-created viaCycle bike distribution solution.  Created in 2007, Bike Emory is an innovative partnership between Emory University, Advanced Sports Inc. and Bicycle South designed to support a richer bicycling experience on and around Emory’s campus. This partnership allows Bike Emory to provide cyclists with a bike share program, discounts on bicycles, an on-campus bike repair/parts station, classes on bike safety and other programming events.

“We believe this is an excellent project and we’re excited to partner with the Bike Emory program to positively impact the way Atlanta commutes,” said Dr. Bert Bras, Georgia Tech professor of mechanical engineering.  

“We’re excited to serve as a test bed for the viaCycle,” said Jamie Smith, director of Bike Emory.  “This is a wonderful way to expand transportation options at Emory.”
The viaCyle bike distribution solution offers lower operating costs (one-half to one-tenth the cost of traditional systems, depending on application), a larger potential market, better functionality and greater user appeal than existing bike share programs.  ViaCycle's flagship product is a technologically advanced “bikeshare in a box”: everything an organization needs to set up seamless first and last-mile transit connectivity.  The bicycles are equipped with integrated smart-locks, used to secure the bicycle when not in use.  These smart-locks are feature GPS and wireless communications, and are connected to viaCycle's central servers and software system.   Program administrators have full access to this system, allowing them to track usage, set up billing, schedule bicycle maintenance and more.  Kiosks and bike racks are no longer needed, meaning program operators can place bikes for maximum convenience. 

The first full fleet of bikes will be available for use on Emory University’s campus by the summer of 2010.  Future plans call for fleets at Georgia Tech and in neighborhoods between both campuses that will integrate with Emory’s system and improve connectivity in the corridor.

Ford C3 was launched in 2008 as a new national challenge grant competition of the Ford Motor Company Fund.  In March 2009, Ford Fund implemented the second round of the Ford College Community Challenge, awarding five winning proposals with one-time awards to implement their projects.  Ford C3 winning proposals for 2009 came from:  Michigan Tech University, University of Illinois, University of Michigan-Dearborn, Georgia Institute of Technology and Michigan State University. Through these winning projects, students will be:

  • Creating an innovative bike share program in an urban environment
  • Assisting senior community residents in better insulating their homes during the winter
  • Using information technology to increase energy efficiency within a community's residential area, and creating a market for energy-efficient rental units
  • Assisting a local non-profit organization significantly expand its operations; and
  • Assisting small and medium-sized local companies in developing and implementing export strategies for their products and services

Emory University is known for its demanding academics, outstanding undergraduate experience, highly ranked professional schools and state-of-the-art research facilities. Perennially ranked as one of the country's top 20 national universities by U.S. News & World Report, Emory encompasses nine academic divisions as well as the Carlos Museum, The Carter Center, the Yerkes National Primate Research Center and Emory Healthcare, Georgia’s largest and most comprehensive health care system.

Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services is focused on creating opportunities that promote corporate citizenship, philanthropy, volunteerism and cultural diversity within the communities where Ford operates. Celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2009 and made possible by funding from Ford Motor Company, Ford Motor Company Fund supports initiatives and institutions that foster innovative education, auto-related safety and American heritage. National programs include Ford Partnership for Advanced Studies, which provides high school students with academically rigorous 21st century learning experiences, and Driving Skills for Life, a teen-focused auto safety initiative. The Ford Volunteer Corps, established in 2005, continues Ford’s legacy of caring worldwide. Through the Volunteer Corps, Ford employees and retirees participate in a wide range of volunteer projects in their communities. For more information on programs made possible by Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services, visit www.community.ford.com.

The Georgia Institute of Technology is one of the world's premier research universities. Ranked seventh among U.S. News & World Report's top public universities and the eighth best engineering and information technology university in the world by Shanghai Jiao Tong University's Academic Ranking of World Universities, Georgia Tech’s more than 20,000 students are enrolled in its Colleges of Architecture, Computing, Engineering, Liberal Arts, Management and Sciences. Tech is among the nation's top producers of women and minority engineers. The Institute offers research opportunities to both undergraduate and graduate students and is home to more than 100 interdisciplinary units plus the Georgia Tech Research Institute.