DIY IAP: Build an Electric Unicycle (Or Just Watch the Video)!

by Jay London on January 11, 2012 · 0 comments

in Design, Engineering, IAP, In the News, Modern Geekhood, Research, Student Life, Transportation

Photo Credit: Stephan Boyer, Double Dispatch blog

Recent data shows that thousands of commuters in Boston-Cambridge area ride their bicycle to work, with ridership more the doubling since 2007. But unicycle ridership? Not current data exists.

Meet Stephan Boyer, a third-year student in the School of Engineering who has created The Bullet, a sort of unicycle-meets-Segway device that can hit 15 miles per hour and can travel for five miles on a single charge.

The Bullet, an electric unicycle with a safety kill switch, does some self-balancing, with components that help prevent the device from falling forward or backward (good luck if you’re falling left or right!). Boyer uses the Bullet to travel around campus, even relying on semantics to travel inside.

Boyer writes on his Double Dispatch blog:

“Bullet is the primary way I navigate MIT and the surrounding Cambridge area. I often zoom past students, faculty, custodians, and tourists, with generally positive reactions from everyone. I’ve been told one can be fined for riding a scooter in the Infinite Corridor. Fortunately, Bullet ain’t no scooter.”

Boyer currently has no plan to market the Bullet for commercial use, but estimates the device cost only a few hundred dollars to build. Boyer (and Slice) urges caution to any burgeoning uni-enthusiasts and likens navigating the Bullet to learning to ride a bike with no hands.

“Unfortunately, one cannot simply pick up a self-balancing unicycle and ride it with ease. It took me several hours to be able to ride in a straight line without crashing, and it took several days to learn how to turn in a controlled manner. Many of my friends have tried riding it, usually with little success (including some actual unicyclers).”

For more information on how the Bullet was assembled, including its kit list and software, and some helpful riding tips, visit Boyer’s Double Dispatch blog entry.

Editor’s note: In honor of MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP) in January, Slice is focusing on activities you can do yourself and on the experiences of students serving this month as externs with alumni in their workplaces. Stay tuned!

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