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Alumnus Ben Waite Brings High-Tech Solutions to Cycling
March 28, 2014
There’s An App For Cycling: Ben Waite, a 2004 mechanical engineering alumnus, worked with students and project managers at Rose-Hulman Ventures to develop the Vuka Fit iPhone/iPad app and web software tool to enhance features of Zipp Speed Weaponry’s cycling products. Waite is a design engineer for the Indianapolis-based company. (Photo courtesy Zipp Speed Weaponry)
A triathlete with a burgeoning interest in time trialing, mechanical engineering alumnus Ben Waite now uses his competitive fire and technical knowledge to design the world’s most advanced aero-cockpits and other technologies for high-performance bicycles.
Waite is a design engineer for Zipp Speed Weaponry, an industry leader in providing quality cycling components. He designed the Indianapolis-based company’s ground-breaking Vuka Stealth, an integrated aerobar system that set new standards for the amount of custom-fit adjustments available on all three axles to achieve a rider’s maximum performance.
“It’s fun to work with all levels of athletes and see that ‘light bulb moment’ when they just slot themselves onto a fit on the bike and they’re like, ‘Wow, I can really feel the difference. This feels great,’” says the 2004 graduate.
However, the new products added up to nearly 2,000 unique fit coordinates. All that adjustability created far too many options for many riders.
“Consumers were overwhelmed and didn’t know how to fit the aerobar to their specific needs,” says Waite. “We had spreadsheets that we would navigate to help them out, but I realized this was a problem that was tailor-made for a software solution.”
That brought about the development of Zipp’s Vuka Fit, a iPhone/iPad app and web software tool that determines the recommended setup to achieve a rider’s precision-calculated position. It had 5,000 unique users within six months of its launch, earned critical acclaim in trade publications, and has driven higher than forecasted sales of the cockpits.
Without software developers on staff, Waite harkened back to his three years as a student intern at Rose-Hulman Ventures for assistance. The program, located at the institute’s South Campus, specializes in bringing together outstanding students with technology-based companies. Senior Project Manager Sandor Pethes, a 2002 computer science alumnus, gathered interns to tackle the challenge.
“Even without being cycling or triathlon enthusiasts, I knew students and Rose-Hulman Ventures’ staff would enjoy working on this project,” says Waite. “Sandor and his team took the initial proposal and mock-up we created and made it a reality. Without fully understanding the end consumer, they would critique the current build with a keen eye and suggest appropriate changes.”
The project has been such a success that Zipp officials are discussing other co-development initiatives, appreciating Rose-Hulman Ventures’ niche for providing fast, high-quality solutions at a fair-market cost.