After recovering from a major brain injury, former BMX rider Glen Wicken is back in the saddle, after designing a new 3D printed, transportable, electric step bike.
I used to be a BMX racer at international standard, working for bicycle companies at demos all over the world.
During a practice run in Bournemouth in 2000, I had an accident that resulted in a serious brain injury. I lost two years of my memory and had to learn how to walk again.
The accident was a massive change to my life. I asked myself ‘can I do this again? can I relearn?’ A lot of people that suffer with brain injuries can't, and I'm very fortunate to be able to learn new things. I felt like I needed to build myself back up again, and my background as an electrician wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. I spent several years working as a caretaker at various schools, but I felt like I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Before the accident I helped design new bikes, and I found that I was quite good at it. I’d often make and fabricate something, and then somebody else would produce it. I was thinking ‘hang on a minute, I'm doing something wrong here!’
I wanted to be able to learn skills that let me work for myself and it just suddenly clicked for me that I could do this.
Glen Wicken, BSc (Hons) Product Design and Innovation
On a visit to the University, I toured the Faculty of Technology and realised that further education was an option for me. It inspired me to see what students would do on technology courses. I wanted to learn skills that would let me work for myself and it suddenly clicked for me that I could do this.
I did a foundation degree in my first year, then joined the BSc Product Design and Innovation course. I learned skills like Computer-Aided Design and how that fed into design work. I discovered how to turn my product drawings into a feasible design, considering the weight, materials and manufacturing process.
I learned how to turn an idea to a finished product through its entire process - from where the materials come from to where it's sold. Now I understand the whole life cycle of a product.
University made me realise that I can be entrepreneurial and not be afraid to give things a go
Glen Wicken, Alumnus, BSc (Hons) Product Design and Innovation
I set my own business up while I was at the University. During my Self Employment Placement in my second year, I started to go self-employed. I created my own design company and started to build something called a StepXCycle. It’s a 3D printed, transportable, electric step bike made from new material sciences. The Student Enterprise Team helped me with setting up the business, and I won an award from the IMechE for the project.
My brain injury caused dyslexia and stress during my studies, and I suffered from depression as well. But the Additional Support and Disability Advice Centre helped me overcome these issues and graduate with a First.
I also worked with the Students’ Union, and with the Psychology department on a project about inclusion. I come from a poor background, so it was great to work with Karen Blackett (University Chancellor) on including people from different races and different backgrounds.
University made me realise that I can be entrepreneurial and not be afraid to give things a go. My advice for anyone considering studying at the University is that there are some really great courses for innovative minds that make you think outside the box. My experiences have made me realise that it’s never too late to start learning.