Biker Build-Off offers real-life learning

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Reuben Goudzwaard takes the Noble Central School drift trike for a spin before setting it up for display at Crowsnest Trail Harley-Davidson and the Biker Build-Off Challenge.

While his teammates were busy writing exams, Jared Feenstra was getting more immediate feedback on his schoolwork in a Lethbridge motorcycle shop.

The Grade 11 student was the lone Noble Central School representative to accept the People’s Choice Award at the eighth annual Palliser Regional Schools Biker Build-Off Challenge.

The event, which saw two school teams each build a drift trike from scratch over the past semester, provides hands-on learning and that’s something that Feenstra finds extremely beneficial.

“You learn a lot of skills, like welding and mechanics, and put it to good use,” he says. “And then you get to reap the rewards and ride it.”

Winning the challenge this year was the Carmangay Outreach team of Jacob Reimer and Jacob Loewen, both in Grade 11, and Grade 10 students Erica Penner and Benny Thiessen. While customers voted on the People’s Choice Award, the Challenge trophy for top bike was voted on by staff at Crowsnest Trail Harley-Davidson in Lethbridge.

Career Technology Studies (CTS) instructor Ken Sanderson, the driving force behind the event, chose drift bikes this year as the project rather than the usual choppers the students have built.

He likens the motorized vehicle to a marriage between the back end of go-cart and the front end of a motorcycle. The rear wheels of the trikes are covered with PVC sleeves to kill the grip and let the back end slide, or drift, around corners.

Sanderson provides the students with guidance, if requested, but says it’s all about learning from one’s mistakes.

Feenstra, who teamed up with Grade 12 students Ty Archibald and Reuben Goudzwaard, agrees.  He says the biggest challenge this year was fixing their trike every time it broke.

“We finished it pretty quickly but we beat on it and beat on it and it kept breaking so we would fix it and make it better,” Feenstra says. “That’s what engineering is all about. You figure it out, it breaks, you improve upon it and make it better.”

Thiessen is also a huge proponent of real-life learning experiences and wishes there were more classes like Sanderson’s.

“It’s the best help you can get,” he offers.

The Carmangay squad won the Biker Build-Off Challenge last year and Thiessen says the goal was to “one up” their effort this year.

“The most challenging thing was the front end. It has to be perfect because of the brakes, the steering, the height. It all comes down to the front end,” he says.

Students participating in the challenge generally put in a lot of their own time on top of the couple of hours a week they are assigned to Palliser’s mobile CTS trailers.

Sanderson says the project teaches students welding and metal fabrication skills, teamwork, problem-solving and more. It also provides them exposure to a possible career choice and workplace safety skills.

While the challenge has only featured Palliser teams in the past, it is open to other schools and Sanderson says he would welcome inquiries from others interested.