This year five schools are participating in the mini-chopper program, which provides students with real life experience and promotes careers in manufacturing as they build mini choppers as part of their academic curriculum. The project is a collaborative effort by the Economic Development Corporation of Manitowoc County, The Chamber of Manitowoc County, local high schools, Lakeshore Technical College, and sponsorship by area business.
“Some of the benefits of the mini-chopper program is that students get to work with area manufacturing and area businesses to not only design, but fabricate, construct, and stay within budget, a complete mini-chopper,” Ryan Zimmerman, a technical education instructor at Lincoln High School said.
Students at Lincoln are creating two mini-choppers this year, small-sized motorcycles that incorporate sponsorship logos into their designs. The students are creating one bike for Lincoln, which incorporates theschool’s colors and the iconic tower into the design, and a second bike for the Manitowoc Public School District.
“We figure out how we want it to look, paint colors and things like that,” Lincoln student Logan Newberg said. “This year we bent and cut the whole frame.”
Students start from scratch and first sketch out a design on paper or in a computer assisted design (CAD) program. At Lincoln, students first built a mock-up of the bike using plastic PVC piping before building the steel frame.
“The entire machine was challenging once they left the plastic design stage,” said Gerald Neuberger, a technical education instructor at Lincoln. “We practiced welding and cutting, but it just isn’t the same as when you have to get a perfect fit.”
McKinley gets in on design
Students at McKinley Academy in Manitowoc built their own bike this year — a first for the school. Without fabrication facilities on-site, students partnered with LTC welding instructor Mitchell Schmidt and used the college’s facilities to fabricate their bike.
“When we first started, the students said they wanted to be completely different and did not want it to look like a typical mini- chopper,” Schmidt said. “One thing they didn’t realize was how much work would go into finish it, but the more you struggle the more you learn.”
The McKinley bike is certainly unique. Students created single-sided axles for the front spoke and rear-swing arm, utilized a bicycle tire and golf cart wheel, and combined elements of dirt bikes, such as a kick-start, to give the bike a truly one-of-a-kind look.
“Originally the gas tank was not as big as we thought it would be, but we decided to leave it and I think it is looking pretty good with how it is turning out,” student Miles Schreiber said.
Students in Two Rivers, Valders and Mishicot are also creating bikes, which are set to be unveiled during an annual Northeastern Wisconsin Charity Motorcycle Show on April 25.
Production is completed under tight deadlines and, in addition to time management, students learn skills such as team work, budgeting, and engineering design.
“I enjoy being able to be a part of something bigger than myself and working with somebody to make a product that works,” Courtney Spangenberg, a senior at Lincoln, said.
Local manufacturing companies help fund the program, provide parts, and assist with other tasks, such as painting and chroming the bikes.
Students will be putting the finishing touches on their bikes over the next week as the unveiling deadline rapidly approaches.
“A lot of after-school hours have been spent getting this thing done,” Zimmerman said. “Getting things done on deadline was definitely a challenge this year.”