CLEARFIELD – Although this year’s chopper will feature an “outrageous design,” Dan Kerlin, automotive mechanics technology instructor at the Clearfield County Career and Technology Center, said that it’s especially neat, as it’s 100 percent built by students.
“It’s built from scratch, and every ounce of work has been done by the students,” Kerlin said. He said that about 32 students have contributed to the overall effort.
He said the students started working on this year’s chopper project in early January and are currently in the “rough building stages.” He said they spend about three hours each day on its construction.
“We’re really under the gun here,” Kerlin said. “But it’s really good for the kids though. They have to use their individual skills and ideas and really work as a team.”
Kerlin said the challenge has presented his students will the opportunity to put their mechanical skills to use, as well as learn others such as welding, electrical wiring and painting schemes.
According to him, the students have used donated parts to bring their idea to fruition. He said a student provided a car wheel, which will be featured on the rear of the chopper.
“It’s a really outrageous design,” Kerlin said, noting his students’ “best in show” performance last year.
“They had over 200 bikes there and about 47,000 people came through the gates. Each was given a ticket, and the majority voted for us to win.”
Kerlin said that last year’s chopper finished third in the overall class challenge. He said the kids really want to win it this year.
But he also emphasized that once the chopper has been built and received its finishing touches, it will buoy the students’ self confidence and pride.
“They can’t wait to complete it and are putting 100 percent into their effort,” he said.
“It will be a boost for them. If you go out in life and work hard and are willing, you can get the job done. It will also showcase the pride in their work and themselves.”
Kerlin said the students’ experience only begins with building the chopper, however. He said that those who are selected to make the trip will reap further benefits.
At the challenge, the center’s six student attendees will have the opportunity to interact with professionals at the top of their game.
“The experience is priceless and inspires them. It’s like going to a baseball game and sitting down with Barry Bonds. These guys are in the big leagues. It puts the students on another level,” Kerlin said.
Kerlin said that he sees a difference in his students later in the classroom.
“They’re eager to get back to work. I hope it fuels their passion. Work doesn’t have to be work. It can be your passion, too,” he said.
“I’m just really happy and proud of them. It’s why we continue to go.”
The Donnie Smith Bike Show hosts the Chopper Class Challenge as part of a professional event. The bike show, which will celebrate its 22nd anniversary, is held each year in St. Paul, Minnesota.
Kerlin said the career and technology center has participated the past three years and is the only Pennsylvania school represented. He said the center will compete against about eight other high schools at the event.
The 2009 Donnie Smith Chopper Class Challenge is set for March 28-29.