7 Questions for the Inventors of the First Hamster Wheel for Humans

By Larissa Zimberoff |
FWX HUMAN HAMSTER MOVING

Robb Godshaw/Will Doenlen

If you work in an office or know anyone who does, chances are good that you have encountered a standing desk. They are supposed to combat the sedentary lifestyle that so many office jobs push us toward. But Robb Godshaw, an artist-in-residence at San Francisco’s Pier 9 design workshop, and Will Doenlen, a developer at Instructables, wanted to take the standing desk to a whole new level. So they teamed up to make one that works like a hamster wheel.

The human-size wheel is 80-inches in diameter with a 24-inch-wide base and a standard-sized desk fit into the center. And even more remarkable was that the two built it in just 24 hours. They have since appeared on Queen Latifah to demo the wheel.

Walking on a giant hamster wheel at work might make some people feel like they aren’t getting anywhere on the job. But symbolism aside, the wheel is quite an impressive piece of engineering. So FWx chatted with the two San Francisco–based inventors to learn more about their creation and what it takes to build one.

1. Who came up with the idea for the hamster wheel?

Will: The hamster wheel idea came to me pretty quickly, it’s either that or a treadmill. I tried a treadmill desk once, but I didn’t like how I was pulled away from my desk. The hamster wheel actually pushes you toward the work.

2. How much did it cost to make the desk?

Robb: $200 to $300, which is far cheaper than most standing desks.

3. Any plans to make and sell it on your own?

Robb: We’re not really interested in entering the manufacturing business. But we’ve put the design on Instructables.com, which means others can build it, edit and evolve the design.

4. Did you run into any snags as you were building the desk?

Robb: The hardest parts to make were the curved portions that support the slats you walk on. We were using a waterjet machine to cut the wood. The waterjet uses a beam to cut things at 100,000 PSI; I can basically cut any shape out of any material. Anyway, the machine broke down toward the end and we had to cut a few pieces by hand, which slowed us way down.

5. The hamster wheel desk rolls on skateboard wheels; did you try any other solutions?

Robb: I went with them right off the bat. I’ve worked with them in the past, and they’re super responsive. If you flick a skateboard wheel with your finger it will spin for at least two or three minutes. They’re also built to support the load of one person, which was perfect for the desk.

6. Is anyone using the desk full time?

Will: As far as I know I’m the only one using it. I can set the pace really easy, and overall I feel more alert at work, and at the end of the day I feel tired, like I’ve gotten exercise, too.

7. What was it like to be on The Queen Latifah Show?

Robb: She was wonderful. She seemed really interested and engaged. The funny part was that I wasn’t supposed to be on the show, but when the wheel showed up the show’s lawyer got really nervous, and demanded that I be the one to walk on the wheel.

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