Undergraduate Research & Scholarships

Christopher Ategeka (2011)

Pedal or Power

“Obwomezi bwensi enu buli nka kagaali; tikasobora kugwa kasita kaba nikagenda” (translated from Rutooro as “Life is like a bicycle; in order to stay balanced you have to keep moving.”) Those were the words of a stranger who gave Chris a ride on the back of his bicycle about a decade ago when he saw him on the side of the road catching his breath, blisters and cuts covering his bare feet after many miles of walking.
Motivated by his own experience growing up in rural Uganda and enduring first hand many of the difficulties posed by lack of adequate transportation, Chris will use his Stronach Baccalaureate Prize to launch “Pedal or Power,” a project to help people in rural Uganda learn how to build and maintain their own bicycles using locally available resources. An additional aspect of the project is to refurbish used bicycles, motorizing them with small engines for flexible use. Bicycles will be distributed at no cost to school children, farmers, health care workers or local clinics, and HIV/AIDS positive patients. When recipients receive a bike, they will also be taught safe riding techniques and maintenance. In the long run, the project will address three major challenges facing poor countries today: education, economic empowerment, and healthcare. Chris strongly believes that the bicycle is one of the world’s greatest under-utilized resources; cycling is five times faster than walking, it quadruples the distance a person can travel while walking, and a bicycle can transport about five times more weight than an average person can carry. It is the purpose of his project to bring positive change to people’s lives through the proven power of the pedal.
See Chris’ Rides for Lives¬†website.

Letters Home


Chris was born and raised in a small village in western Uganda. After losing both his parents to AIDS by the age of seven, he experienced years of hardship striving to complete his studies and take care of his five younger siblings. Sponsored by his American host family, Chris moved to California in 2006 and enrolled in the Peralta Community College system. After Chris graduated with highest honors from Laney College, he transferred to Berkeley in 2009. In addition to his rigorous course of studies in Mechanical Engineering (B.S. 2011), Chris was involved in many extracurricular activities while at Berkeley, such as running marathons, pursuing his pilot’s license, volunteering, writing a memoir, and working part-time at the campus Recreational Sports Facility. As a UC Berkeley Alumni Association Achievement Award winner, Chris was asked to speak at the 2011 Charter Gala, the University’s signature event. After initiating his Pedal or Power project, Chris will return to UC Berkeley in 2012 to pursue his doctoral studies in Mechanical Engineering.
Read a profile of Chris in the summer 2019 Cal Alumni Magazine

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