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Bike-Building Degree: MN College Launches One-of-a-Kind Program

Moots titanium bike welding
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Top image: Welding a titanium Moots bicycle at the company’s Steamboat Springs, Colo., headquarters; photo by Adam Ruggiero

Build skills in metallurgy, welding, mechanical design, and more en route to the nation’s first college degree in bicycle design and fabrication.

With a population under 20,000 people, Red Wing, Minn., holds surprising notoriety thanks to the eponymous Red Wing Shoes. But in a few years, the small city 60 miles outside Minneapolis may have another claim to fame: bicycles.

That’s because, in 2021, Minnesota State College Southeast in Red Wing will unveil its first crop of graduates with a degree in bicycle design and fabrication. The two-year associate’s program, launching in fall 2019, will mark the first college degree focused on building bikes. With it, the school aims to attract students to engineering and machining — trades that often lack a cool factor.

“It’s a two-year applied mechanical engineering degree,” Travis Thul, dean of trade and technology at MSCS, told the Star Tribune. “It’s wrapped around the deliverable of a bicycle, bike frame design, and apparatuses. So you’re taking this emotional deliverable or this emotional application, and you’re wrapping it over the underpinnings of a mechanical engineering technology degree.”

Bike-Building Degree: Minnesota State College Southeast

Moots titanium bicycle frame
Moots bicycles represent some of the finest bicycle design and fabrication in America; photo by Adam Ruggiero

Through the curriculum, students will develop fabrication and engineering skills and study 3D printing, composites, mechanical design, and welding.

Still, the main purpose — according to the program description — is to prepare students for careers in the bicycle industry. And with it come bike-specific courses on topics like physics for bikes, machining for bikes, and the history and theory of bike design.

Though the degree marks the first of its kind in America, it’s not all that unorthodox for the MSCS campus. The school already has a program for guitar building and repair. In fact, it helped inspire the two-wheel track.

“I asked myself, ‘What application has emotional appeal like the guitar does while still being able to translate these very important technical and employable skills?'” Thul told Bicycle Retailer and Industry News. “I’m an engineer, and I’ve got friends that are engineers who have spent more money on bicycles than probably on their home or their car. It became clear there’s an emotional attachment to the bicycle among a very large swath of our population. But if you look at the bicycle, it’s also the perfect example of fine engineering skills.”

Enrollment for Bicycle Design & Fabrication at MSCS is open now. General coursework begins in spring 2019, with hands-on lab work launching in the fall. Learn more and apply now here.

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