Going beyond the dream of riding a bike, students in Bay View Middle School will design and build one, as part of the curriculum transforming the school into an engineering and technology academy.
Their lessons in mathematics, engineering and problem solving will be learned via the gear ratios, carrying capacity and stability requirements of a cargo bike.
“This fits beautifully with our whole concept,” said Amy Johnson, director of Bay View’s Academy of Engineering. “This bike is something very tangible.”
“Once they get into it, these kids will live, breathe and dream about this bike,” she said.
She anticipates many of them will skip lunches and study halls to work on the project, not realizing they are studying high-end math concepts and geometry.
Bay View teachers partnered with the Wisconsin Bike Fed to launch the project, which will be part of the Gateway to Technology class for students in grades seven and eight. The school raised $6,020 for the cost of the parts and equipment.
Emmett Gross, a bike builder and architect, will lead the students through the research, design and construction of a bicycle that can carry books, groceries and whatever a rider wants to haul.
It’s arguably more exciting and motivating than the bird houses middle school students have built in past semesters.
Gross is anxious to build upon the success of similar projects he led at North Division High School and the Hope House shelter in Milwaukee.
“The goal is to have something that is used,” Gross said. “The product, the end result is what gets the students coming back.”
Building a bike will show students the path from idea to finished product.
They will begin to analyze the problem of building a cargo bike early in the second semester, interview potential users to refine their specifications and share their ideas. Those ideas will be turned into designs, then shaped into fine details through a refinement stage.
The Academy of Engineering bought a 3-D printer to develop prototype models of the students’ designs.
In the spring, Gross will help in the building, welding and assembly that will make the pieces into a working bicycle.
Once the bikes are completed, they will become available for rent to the community.
While one project can’t transform an entire school, designing and building a bike will create momentum for the science, technology engineering, arts and math curriculum turning a technology academy.
Full implementation of the STEM curriculum and the Academy of Engineering will take place in 2014-15, with a focus on the project-based learning that will take place in the bike build.
It’s a new bike for a new school.