MENOMONIE — At age 10, Jessica Kreitz first learned how to ride a unicycle her grandfather bought her at a flea market.
“I learned how to ride it in my yard hanging onto a fence,” said Kreitz, 22, who graduated on Dec. 16 from UW-Stout with a bachelor’s degree in industrial design. “Once you learn, it’s just like riding a two-wheel bike. You never forget.”
For her senior industrial design 6 class, Kreitz designed and built a rugged 24-inch-wheel unicycle with a disc brake, a suspension system and ergonomic handles on the seat. She showed her final product at the Senior Show on Dec. 15.
“It is specifically for mountain unicycling or trail riding,” Kreitz said of her creation.
Kreitz loves the challenge of riding a unicycle, noting she has read that one in 360 people ride unicycles regularly worldwide.
“It’s unique,” Kreitz said. “It’s more of a challenge than your average bike. With a bike you can rest. You are pedaling a unicycle constantly. You have to watch your every move. If you hit a bump you have to compensate. You’re constantly balancing.”
In her hometown of Breezy Point, Minn., Kreitz would be called upon to ride her unicycle in parades or at sporting events.
Kreitz drew designs, created prototypes using parts from three other unicycles she had and came up with a final design. She then built the new unicycle, including 3D-printing the ergonomic handles for the seat. The handles help with getting on and off the unicycle, particularly important when trail riding, she said.
“I have not seen a suspension like this on a unicycle before,” she said, noting the suspension is a more fractured design, which to her is more interesting than a traditional fork with a seat post.
The blue unicycle is powder-coated and has Kreitz’s logo on it. The logo is of a bear riding a unicycle, which symbolizes the elements of adventure and being outdoors, Kreitz said.
Kreitz starts work full time in product design on Jan. 3 at Integrated Design Solutions in Chippewa Falls, a comprehensive product design and development company.
Her grandparents, Lloyd and Eva Kreitz, were artists and her father, Jeff Kreitz, is a welder who owns Creative Steel Works Inc., creating custom items such as fireplace doors.
“I got the creative abilities in the family,” Jessica Kreitz said. “I’ve always been drawn to creating things. I was interested in industrial design because I could design and build things, and I could turn it into a career. I wanted to train for a job and get placed in a job.”
Kreitz plans to keep her new unicycle for now. If a company is interested in her new design, Kreitz said she would be thrilled to have them use it.
“It’s pretty sweet,” she said of the unicycle she created.
Jennifer Astwood, an industrial design associate professor at UW-Stout who taught Kreitz’s class, said Kreitz was the first student to take the senior project to the next levelby not only designing but by engineering the unicycle.
“It is super impressive,” Astwood said. “This just shows the type of drive Jess has. She always goes above and beyond. She is such a good designer.”
Kreitz was one of about 100 students from UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design who presented their capstone projects Dec. 15 at the biannual Senior Show.