Students revved up over Biker Build-Off Challenge

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Carmangay Outreach School team members (l to r) Benny Thiessen, Erica Penner and Corny Thiessen.

Proud students have been known to bring home a particular quiz or essay to show their parents how they fared. Few, however, are likely to snap photos of their schoolwork with a smart phone to share with friends and classmates.

There were plenty of selfies being taken at Crowsnest Trail Harley-Davidson, however, as teams showed off the results of their school project. The Lethbridge motorcycle dealership was site of the awards ceremony for the Biker Build-Off Challenge, with a team from the Carmangay Outreach School taking top honours and a Noble Central School squad earning the People’s Choice Award.

Lethbridge MP Rachael Harder handed out the hardware to the Nobleford team of Jared Feenstra, Tynan Potterton, Dawson Schlamp and Hayden Scott based on votes cast by those visiting the dealership. While she admits her knowledge of choppers is rudimentary at best, Harder didn’t have any problem recognizing the benefits of hands-on learning opportunities.

“We need to look for those opportunities so kids have a chance to really explore the skills and talents and abilities they have that are outside the realm of a traditional school setting,” she said, adding she was impressed by the innovation shown and hard work put in by the students. “We need to pursue those venues for kids to be creative and build stuff.”

The challenge, now in its seventh year, is the brainchild of Palliser Regional Schools’ shop teacher Ken Sanderson.  Students have the option of taking the Career and Technology Studies (CTS) course and build a chopper from scratch over the span of a semester, with a fair amount of after-school work necessary.

Along with welding and metal fabrication skills, the students learn how to work as a team and, perhaps most importantly, how to problem solve. Sanderson only weighs in when teams have exhausted all other avenues.

“I want to see them take ownership of it and make some mistakes but learn from them. And if they do another build then they can bring that to the table with them,” he said.

Hopefully students take home not only a trophy but also a view of the opportunities that await them after their school years are done, said Eric Payne, who handed the top award to Carmangay representatives Erica Penner and Corny and Benny Thiessen.

“To come into a big dealership like this and see where that little skill might be able to take them one day into a career, I think it’s a big eye-opener for them,” said the director of the Crowsnest Trail Hog Chapter.

This year saw just two teams take part in the challenge, with as many as four competing in previous years. Sanderson would love to see more schools in Palliser – and other districts in southern Alberta – take advantage of the opportunity in the future.

“I would like to see it grow to other schools because metal work is a real difficult course to actually get projects that are cost effective and that the students are going to learn from,” said Sanderson, who pointed out the materials used in the chopper-build are recycled one year to the next. “It’s wide open and if they want to join, they’re in.”