Spring 2013

(Suit)case study in ingenuity

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Matthew O'Grady took his suitcase go-kart to a Job & Internship Fair.

Senior Matthew O’Grady was easy to spot at January’s Job & Internship Fair. He was the one driving the suitcase.

He calls it a suitcase go-kart, and the idea came to him at an airport when he was tired of walking. He discarded the idea of a motorized scooter — too awkward to transport. “Then it hit me! I could take a piece of carry-on luggage, put a motor on it, then carry it when not in use and ride it when I needed to.”

“I could also fit some clothes into it,” he adds.

Back home in Queens, the mechanical engineering student found a piece of luggage in the attic and began designing the frame that goes inside. His friend, Corbin Irvin ’11, lent his electrical engineering expertise. In three days, they were done. “All the components were parts I had around my house,” O’Grady says. “The drive motor was from an old circular saw.”

The cart has a top speed of about 7 mph and a battery life of between 15 and 30 minutes. It can carry a 150-pound person, but also can be closed and carried.

“It’s fun to ride around and see people’s faces when I go by in a suitcase,” O’Grady says. He got a lot of attention at the fair, but no interviews as a direct result of his invention. “There were no automotive companies,” he says.

Meanwhile, improvements continue, although the suitcase go-kart will never fulfill its original purpose, O’Grady says. “If you can’t bring more than 3 ounces of liquid through the door of the airport, I don’t think a bag full of wires and batteries will pass.”