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Auburn Engineering allows ALS-paralyzed alum to complete Bo Bikes Bama event

Former Auburn University basketball player Gary Godfrey is thankful to feel the wind in his face again after completing his third Bo Bikes Bama event.

Godfrey, a 1986 industrial engineering graduate, in 2019 was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which destroys nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord.

This past weekend’s 20-mile charity bike ride was not an event friendly to those stricken with the debilitating disease. However, 13 students in AU’s Samuel Ginn College of Engineering were determined to have Godfrey participate.

“Thanks to these Auburn Engineering students, I got to feel the wind in my face again,” said Godfrey.

The team, which consisted of eight mechanical engineering seniors, an industrial master’s student volunteer, three mechanical engineering graduate teaching assistants and an undergraduate teaching assistant, constructed an adaptive bike to accommodate Godfrey’s ailments.

Chuck Smith, an experienced cyclist and a friend of Godfrey’s, acted as the vehicle’s operator.

According to the university, the team was supervised by assistant mechanical engineering professor Kyle Schulze and mechanical engineering lecturer Jordan Roberts, who also serves as the director of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering’s Design and Manufacturing Lab.

To test the bike’s mechanics, the team recruited AU senior tight end Luke Deal, whose father was diagnosed with ALS in 2021. Deal has a build similar to Godfrey’s 6-feet 8-inch, 290-pound frame.

(AuburnEngineering/Flickr)

Mechanical engineering senior Joshua McCreight, the project’s team lead, spoke to the collaborative effort that was undertaken to complete the vehicle’s design.

“Building the bike for Gary was a great experience because it was an example of a real-world design and build process — we were working on a tight schedule with a big group,” said McCreight. “I’m really pleased we got it done in time for Gary to participate in Bo Bikes Bama. We were committed to finishing it, not only because it was our senior design project, but because it’s such a great way to share the positive impact of Gary’s story.”

Godfrey completed the course in approximately two hours.

Godfrey’s wife, Carol, also an AU industrial and systems engineering graduate, inquired with the university last year about the project.

“We weren’t willing to give up on the things that we love just because of a bad break,” she said. “Gary has ALS, but ALS doesn’t have Gary.”

Bo Bikes Bama, founded in 2011, is an annual charity ride led by AU legend Bo Jackson. The ride’s proceeds benefit the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

Prior to the ride’s commencement, AU president-elect Chris Roberts, former dean of the Samuel Ginn College of Engineering, along with head football coach Bryan Harsin and Auburn Mayor Ron Anders, powered Godfrey on a short demonstration of the bike’s capabilities.

“This project and this day represents the full circle of the Auburn mission of education, research and outreach,” Roberts said. “The bike ran incredibly well. I’m so proud of these students and so happy for Gary. This is what the Auburn Family is all about.”

Dylan Smith is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @DylanSmithAL