Middle schoolers build chopper

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A handful of Cheslea Middle School students are building a motorcycle, and no, they didn&8217;t buy it in a box from Toys R&8217; Us.

The students attend one of only two schools in the country competing in the pilot Bike Build-off competition, organized by Shop Rat Associates and Wheels of Thunder in Jackson, Mich.

Chelsea and another middle school in Michigan are pitted against each other as the North versus the South, designing and assembling custom motorcycles to be judged at the Wheels of Thunder show June 8-9.

&8220;It&8217;s awesome because we already know we are going to win because Alabama rocks,&8221; said Cooper Dinwiddie, a middle school student at Chelsea and part of the Bike Build-Off team.

Brian Copes, Career Discoveries teacher at Chelsea Middle, organizes Chelsea&8217;s end of the project. He grabbed onto the idea after seeing his students needing more after school options. He said, &8220;There&8217;s a big need for this type of training too. Kids are searching for things to get involved in after school and this fits the niche perfectly with a lot of younger kids.&8221;

The Bike Build-off positively impacts participants both young and old. Copes said, &8220;You can see the excitement they have. They are learning math and engineering concepts and…they will see it put together in practical use here and most of the time they won&8217;t even realize it.&8221;

One parent, Phil Spencer, has seen a marked difference in his son Cameron. &8220;It&8217;s taken him from basically in the house and that type of person to wanting to get involved in hands-on type things,&8221; he said. &8220;It has expanded his horizons…he&8217;s always wanted to got to Auburn, and now he&8217;s looking into engineering there and at different things like applied physics. We&8217;re talking about a 13-year-old.&8221;

The students aren&8217;t the only ones being changed by the project. &8220;I&8217;m kind of a fish out of water right now, my background is in construction,&8221; Copes said. &8220;But the kids are ready to learn and pushing me most of the time.&8221;

This isn&8217;t the first taste of building motor vehicles and competition for Chelsea students, however. In Copes&8217;s Career Discoveries class, students built a suped-up golf cart last year, and this year they are working on an easy-to-assemble all-terrain vehicle that could be marketed in third world countries.

&8220;I usually don&8217;t do stuff like this,&8221; said Jesse Goss, a student helping to build the all-terrain cart and participant in the Bike Build-off. &8220;[The class] is just really fun and now I can take it out of school and have more fun with it.&8221;

The latest cart will be entered into college level vehicle design competition with the Institute for Affordable Transportation. Chelsea is the only middle school ever to enter the competition