2017-10-26 / Front Page

Coastal Academy students learn skills through bicycle repair

BY DARCIE MOORE
Times Record Staff


STUDENT ALEX COFFIN works to remove a part on Wednesday while repairing of a bicycle in Harpswell Coastal Academy’s new program. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD STUDENT ALEX COFFIN works to remove a part on Wednesday while repairing of a bicycle in Harpswell Coastal Academy’s new program. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD BRUNSWICK

When 18-year-old Kylan Freeman signed up for bike repair class, the Harpswell Coastal Academy student was just hoping to learn a few useful maintenance skills.

“I just didn’t realize that fixing bikes would be this fun,” Freeman said. “It’s just like putting together a puzzle. … It’s really fun to try to find out what the problems are, problem solve and trouble shoot them. It’s definitely fun for me. I like solving puzzles.”

The class spends two hours every Wednesday morning in Harpswell Coastal Academy’s shop, Coastal Bike Works. An elective at the school’s Division 2 and Division 3 campus at Brunswick Landing, the students are learning how to clean and repair bicycles in a hands-on environment.


STUDENTS GARRETT GENDRON, left, and Kylan Freeman work on a brake repair job Wednesday while teacher Micah Depper looks on. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD STUDENTS GARRETT GENDRON, left, and Kylan Freeman work on a brake repair job Wednesday while teacher Micah Depper looks on. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD “We’re starting to learn how these bikes are put together by taking them apart,” said teacher Micah Depper, who is also now the director of Teaching and Learning for HCA.

The program has had several bikes donated by a number of sources, including the Brunswick Police Department and Gorham Bike and Ski, while Center Street Cycles in Brunswick is allowing the students to purchase parts wholesale from the store. The owner has said he has a hard time finding qualified people to hire — so HCA is, hopefully, train- ing his future employees.

“The whole idea of the program is, it’s a social enterprise,” said Depper. “Our big goal is to get a bunch of bikes to the bike swap in Portland in April and sell them for $50 to $100 and that generates all the revenue we need for the program and buying parts.”


STUDENT Colin Demmons, 14, asks teacher Micah Depper a question Wednesday while repairing a bike. 
DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD STUDENT Colin Demmons, 14, asks teacher Micah Depper a question Wednesday while repairing a bike. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD The school also plans to donate bicycles to community centers and people in need. Additionally, any HCA student in need of a bike is encouraged to come into the shop and help with repairs — after 18 hours of labor, they can take home a bike of their own.

Alongside the bike repair program, HCA’s Division 1 school has a riding program. Students are riding trails in the area, learning how to signal and where to ride.

“We’re trying to create a whole bike ecosystem here,” Depper said.

While some students will likely move onto one of the other electives, Depper expects some will stick with it for a year or two.

“I’d like for them to be the shop leaders and wear the boss apron and I can sit back and be supervisor to make sure everything that comes out of the shop is safe and to grade,” Depper said.

Down the road, Depper hopes that he can work with teachers to get similar programs started at other schools. He got the idea a few years ago reading about a bike shop that Shannon Belt started at Westbrook High School. Belt is now the Education and Outreach coordinator at Bicycle Coalition of Maine. He’s helped Depper get the HCA bike program up on two wheels and plans to work with students periodically, too.

“We’re an advocacy group working on making the roads safer for bicyclists and pedestrians … giving kids mechanical knowledge to make the bike not a toy (but) a vehicle,” Belt said. “It really changes kids’ perspective. … I think that’s how we can make a change to make bicycles safer.”

He believes the bike program will flourish at HCA, “and getting our next generation of kids to go into the world being problem-solvers and think outside the box and getting into these jobs that we don’t even know exist, is where I think we need to be going in education in general.”

The school is still accepting donated bicycles, helmets, tools or monetary donations. To make a donation, contact Micah Depper at Harpswell Coastal Academy at (207) 833-3229, ext. 601.

dmoore@timesrecord.com

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