Calgary teen reinvents the wheel to win 1st year university tuition

A Calgary student has literally just reinvented the wheel, and it's paid off in the form of a university entrance scholarship.

Wheels transform from star-shaped to circular, depending on terrain

Fed up with pushing his dad's car out of the snow, boy genius invents new wheel

5 years ago
Tahmid Khan has just won a national science fair competition and a university scholarship with his "Adaptive Wheels" project. 2:56

A Calgary student has literally just reinvented the wheel, and it's paid off in the form of a university entrance scholarship.

Tahmid Khan, a Grade 10 student at Sir Winston Churchill High School, won a gold medal at the 2016 Canada-Wide Science Fair in Montreal for his "Adaptive Wheels" project.

With that comes a $4,000 scholarship to Western University.

"What I've come up with is actually a wheel that can be both round and spiky, and it changes shape," Khan said. 

Watch the star-shaped wheel transform into a circle

5 years ago
Grade 10 student Tahmid Khan has just won an entrance scholarship to Western University with this novel invention. 0:11

The star-shaped wheels are able to accommodate varying terrain and can morph back into circular tires on paved roads.

"When I first tell them that I've come up with a wheel that's not round, they all think I'm insane, because it goes against everything we know about wheels," Khan said.

"When I prove to them that this works way better when it comes to off-road conditions, and it is also a circle, then they realize that it has far more potential."

The current prototype has been outfitted to 1/10th the size of a regular wheel and was constructed using a 3D printer. (Tahmid Khan)

Experimental design process

Khan said he was inspired after he saw his dad's car constantly getting stuck in the snow. 

He said he examined all the snow mobility technology he could find, from snowmobiles to studded tires with various weight-spreaders. 

He then tested different designs in the snow with a hill climb to gauge the maximum angle that these prototypes could traverse, until he found the most effective model. 

"What I've done here is novel. It is actually new," he said.

Khan said the closest comparable model would be a wheel that has spikes that extend out of it.

"That's fundamentally different, because my wheel is changing shape, not just having things come out of it.What that allows you to do is have a much more effective experience than what is out there now."

'What's next? It's to go bigger. I wanna go bigger. I wanna see how this will work in a larger scale,' says Khan (Tahmid Khan)

Scaling up

Khan's 3D-printed prototype is made out of plastic and is just 1/10th the size of a regular tire.

The original model was just 1/18th the size, and Khan said even modest changes to scale, significantly impacted design and efficiency.

He plans to continue scaling up until he is able to produce a life-size model, most likely made of an aluminum alloy or magnesium.

"I want to see what will happen when you go bigger as well as use different materials," he said.

"Engineering is a bit of a passion of mine," Khan said. 

"I see science as a solution to many of our problems, and I really want to invest my time in it."

With files from The Homestretch