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June 09, 2014 - Rachel Goodspeed, Public Relation & Media Strategist

Bike club encourages STEM learning through hands-on work, mentorship

CINCINNATI – The clicks of wrenches tightening bolts of rear wheel gears and clanks of bicycle chains being adjusted are just some of the sounds that came from the doors of the Woodward Career Technical High School STEM Bicycle Club as the students disassembled and reassembled bikes.

Students met once a week after school with their mentors from March 11 to May 13 to break down and reassemble their own bikes. On May 31, students, parents and volunteers donned their helmets and took their bikes out for an inaugural bike ride.

"When I first started the bike club, I was excited to work on building a bike. Not only did I get the chance to meet new people, I had the chance to learn about bikes and how they work," says one student. "This bike club has meant a lot, and was very helpful and interesting."

"I love the bike club. When I first came in the club, I didn’t know many people and didn’t know a thing about biking. At the end, I knew a lot. The club is fun, great and educational," adds another student.

The STEM Bicycle Club, part of the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative (GCSC), is a "heads on, hands on" project that recently completed a successful year with 12 seventh and eighth grade students under the guidance of their STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) professional mentors from GE Aviation, Performance Bicycle and Time Warner Cable (TWC).

Through learning the parts that make up a bicycle, how to maintain it and the rules of the road, in addition to the hands-on work, the students learned basic mechanical skills and, more importantly, boosted their confidence in their own skills.

"We know that children learn best when they are actively engaged in relevant subjects of interest and that they love bikes for the independence and pride of ownership they offer," says Kathie Maynard, GCSC chair. "GCSC leveraged these success conditions to design an engaging, confidence-building project that exposes under-served students to the fun and satisfaction of successfully completing a challenging project while also building STEM skills."

Journaling was also integrated throughout the program to reinforce self-expression as well as literacy skills.

"The skill-building and mentorship this club provides builds the students’ confidence and inspires them to pursue challenging high school curriculum, higher education and careers. They’re learning that STEM careers are really within their reach and their possibilities are endless," says Maynard.

Although the project won’t be formally evaluated by the University of Cincinnati Evaluation Services Center until this summer, positive preliminary results prompted three school and their community partners to seek support to run the project this fall. Woodward and GE Aviation are planning to run the bicycle club again in the coming school year and are seeking funding. R.A. Jones Middle School in Boone County, Kentucky, will start a bicycle club as well with TWC planning to fund.

Financial support for this year's project was provided by a variety of community partners, including TWC, The Greater Cincinnati Foundation, The Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation and Urban League of Greater Cincinnati.

GCSC is a group of education, community and business partners, including the United Way-managed Partners for a Competitive Workforce, working together to create hands-on, real-life learning experiences in science, technology, engineering and math for our region’s students.

Top photo provided by Time Warner Cable. Bottom photo provided by the Greater Cincinnati STEM Collaborative.