Results after 7 years of studying: 2 Bachelor’s degrees, 1 patent
While she was studying mechanical engineering at HTW Berlin, Wenke Förster discovered her passion for product design. After finishing her engineering studies, she enrolled on the Industrial Design programme to study for a second degree. Not only does she have two Bachelor’s degrees squared away, she now also has a patent. She came up with the idea for inventing a “power-transmitting, lockable swivel joint” during a study project which involved the development of innovative solutions for the bicycle market. Wenke wanted to build a functional and aesthetic bicycle handlebar.
The invention: a folding handlebar
The main body of a bicycle is actually very narrow. It is only the handlebars that stick out to the sides and get in the way when taking a bike on the train or get tangled up with other bicycle handlebars on bike stands. Wenke’s idea was to create a handlebar that could be folded together at a 90-degree angle while still maintaining a pleasingly aesthetic shape. Together with her father she worked on developing a solution. To be certain that the technical concept would actually work, Wenke approached two of her former mechanical engineering professors. They were so impressed with her design that they advised her to register a patent. She received support from HTW Berlin through the university’s Cooperation Centre for Applied Sciences, which took over the handling and covered the costs for the patent. Wenke can now officially call herself an inventor.
The decision to follow her Bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering with a design degree is something that Wenke does not regret for a minute. “Through studying Industrial Design I am more broadly positioned. As an engineer, my main focus is ensuring that production is carried out as efficiently and economically as possible. But that isn’t enough for me. As an industrial designer I take a holistic approach: Can the product that I’m designing be used intuitively? Can it be dismantled? Can the materials be recycled? In short, can I create an effective and sustainable product solution?”
The dream of series production
Since completing her studies, Wenke has started working as a freelancer for a company in Charlottenburg. She continues to work on her idea on the side and even presented her folding handlebars at this year’s Hannover-Messe, Germany’s prestigious industrial show. She can imagine being at the Berlin Fahrradschau (Berlin Bicycle Show) next year. The potential of her invention is not only limited to improving the world of cycling. The "power-transmitting, lockable swivel joint" could be adapted for table and chair legs, door handles, taps or even toys. Wenke’s invention offers plenty of opportunities for development.