In 2012, MakeLab, HERObike and The Design Department at the University of Kansas, in partnership with John Bielenberg's Future Partners, joined forces to create a bicycle that not only supports a sustainable and ecologically friendly manufacturing process, but also creates a better life for residents of Greensboro in Alabama, US. After a successful Kickstarter campaign, we have been making and delivering Semester bicycles since February, 2014.
MakeLab is a collaborative design group developing social enterprises to benefit regions in need of jobs and job training. Leveraging design experience in developing advanced bamboo composites from the bicycle project and several months of R&D at the renown Bamboo Studio in Mumbai, Professor Lance Rake has developed a bamboo composite skateboard design that uses the strength and vertical compliance of bamboo, strengthened and stiffened in key areas with fiberglass and carbon fiber to make a deck that is fun, responsive, and a joy to look at.
The beautiful woven bamboo mats top and bottom are actually critical components of an advanced sandwich core panel. The “core” is made of End-Grain Balsa wood, known to be the stiffest and most shear resistant core found in boatbuilding and experimental aircraft and other high stress applications. Balsa also shows superior compressive and bonding strength to the skins, so we create a composite structure that is not only strong, but extremely durable. Truck mounts are strengthened with Baltic birch plywood and carbon fiber reinforcement. Professor Rake brought several students early this year to Greensboro to prototype and test multiple design iterations were prototyped and tested. The result is The Beacon Alley skateboard we proudly offer today! No other deck looks like it. No other deck rides like it.
The Beacon Alley Skateboard will be fabricated in the MakeLab shop in Greensboro where we currently make our Semester bicycles. The innovative, high-performance bamboo composite products we fabricate in the Makelab provide job training, and create new jobs in the Alabama Black Belt.
Shown with clear grip tape.
The Cruiser brings back classic style in a surprisingly versatile design. Like our Popsicle model, the Cruiser has a concave design for high strength and maximum control. Whether you are an everyday street rider, a traditionalist who appreciates the quality craftsmanship and “sun and fun” look of woven bamboo, or a tech savvy skater who wants the cutting edge of sandwich core construction and composite materials for board that is strong yet responsive – this is your board!
Shown with clear grip and black grip tape.
Our Popsicle board is made with a modern, concave shape that strengthens the board and gives the rider more control. Woven bamboo is a perfect material for this kind of three dimensional form because it can readily comply to complex shapes. Tradition maple plys are stiff and need to be molded under extreme pressures to take shape. The high tech sandwich core construction of a Beacon Alley board can be molded precisely under far less pressure, which allows us to make a deck that is responsive where you want it, and stiff where you need it.
During winter break twelve University of Kansas Students spent two weeks in Greensboro, AL weaving, prototyping, and testing boards. The work continued throughout the spring where the final two designs were refined.
Prototypes and testing: Alex Anderson, Brandon Clay, Haley Fetters-Crouch, Jay Livingston, Chris Mehl, Jeff Miller, Claire Pedersen, Lyndall Robinson, Ashley Shelton, Taylor Stelter, Yvonne Saenz, Austin Swick, Professor Andrea Herstowski, Professor Lance Rake and Pam Dorr.
Supporting MakeLab helps HERO provide new opportunities for hard working families to provide a better way of life to their children. Help us support change - one board at a time.
For Your Support
Your pledge will support the start up production of Beacon Alley Bamboo Skateboards. Your feedback will help shape our upcoming products. We can’t wait to hear what you think.
Risks and challenges
There are some risks and challenges that come with designing a new product. These are increased when working in a rural area with a workforce that needs training and education. This takes time. We have been careful to set our delivery dates to give us enough time to meet the demand expected.
All of the resources we need are readily available, so we are not anticipating any production delays, but we will continue to be proactive in this regard to insure the highest quality workmanship and components.
The bamboo skateboard prototypes have been built and extensively tested to ensure the hand-crafted quality, fit and finish that MakeLab stands for. We are training our team and developing our shop to handle the tasks ahead.
We love building boards. We are ready for any setbacks that arise to build a skateboard that can bring optimism and good product design together to change the future of our town.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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