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Itís no secret that automobiles have created plenty of problems around the world, not the least of which include air pollution and street congestion. Forward-thinking individuals have begun to come up with a variety of innovative, alternative forms of transportation to help remedy the situation.

One of these is a unique, electric street vehicle known as the Uno, created by Canadian inventor Ben Gulak. The Uno rides like a combination of the motorcycle and the unicycle, all without pumping exhaust into the environment.

Born in 1989, Gulak grew up outside Toronto and began working at an early age with machine tools, side by side with his grandfather, who had a complete machine shop at his home. Gulak inherited all of the equipment when his grandfather passed away in 2004.

At the age of 17 Gulak visited China and was overwhelmed by the pollution that existed there; he observed that much of it was due to the throngs of motor scooters people rode through the streets, and when he got home, he decided to try and do something about it.

Gulak began working on a vehicle concept that would be street legal, compact, and use electrical power only; no gasoline. He came up with a design that looks much like one-half of a motorcycle: the Uno has two wheels set close together, side by side, giving the appearance of a unicycle. It uses a computerized control system to keep it upright and balanced. There is only an on-off switch; in order to control it the rider sits on the seat and leans forward or backward in order to accelerate, stop, or slow the vehicle.

Gulak worked on the Uno for two years, and entered it into the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair where he won second place and also was awarded the prize for "most marketable" product.

He set up a company to further develop the Uno and has begun pursuing patents for his invention in the U.S., Europe and Canada. Meanwhile, he was invited to appear with the Uno on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno in 2008; he prepared a new version of his prototype to demonstrate to the public on air. The Uno was featured on the cover of "Popular Science Magazine" in May of 2008 as part of a feature naming the yearís top 10 inventions.

Gulak, who is, as of this writing, still a teenager, will enter the Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall, where he plans to study mechanical engineering as a member of the class of 2012.

[August 2008]

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