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Unique bike-building classes combining art and engineering set worldwide standard


The dozens of emails Steve McGuire receives each semester typically begin like this:

Dear ProfessorMcGuire,

I am a freshman at the University of Iowa, and I chose to come here because I knew I would be able to take your bike-building course. I would like to meet with you discuss what I need to do to prepare for the class and how I can get the most out of thisopportunity.


They are love letters to the craft of bike building and testaments to the renowned reputation McGuire has built for the UI through a single, six-year-old class, Fabrication and Design: Hand BuiltBicycle.

McGuire, professor of metal arts and 3-D design and Studio Division coordinator in the UI School of Art and Art History, created a curriculum for the class in 2010 to foster collaboration between the College of Engineering and the School of Art and Art History. The class also unites four artistic disciplines: sculpture, ceramics, jewelry/metals, and 3-Ddesign.

It was an idea conceived from McGuire’s passion—bicycle riding and epic endurance races—but conveys exceedingly practical information to hisstudents.

“The idea for the class was to develop a course in which students learned a variety of skills that would be applicable across a range of disciplines. When you’re building a bicycle, you are modeling, you are fabricating, you’re designing, you’re doing a number of things that are pretty important in terms of being successful in both engineering and art,” he says. “So I set that side by side with what I love to do—I ride mybike.”

The class, informally called “Bike I,” has grown to include an advanced section—“Bike II”—for those taking it a second or even third time. The class size is limited by the number of frame jigs the UI has, currently15.



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