by Doug McClure
HARDWICK – Hazen Union is exploring offering students a new training program through California-based Project Bike Tech, said Principal Jason Di Giulio. The skills taught in the program have a practical application to real-world careers, and students who complete the course earn an official industry certification.
The program is described by Project Bike Tech as “a credited high school elective that uses bicycle mechanics as a conduit to teach STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) elements to students.” Project Bike Tech stated its “proprietary curriculum” is classified under the Transportation Sector of Career Technical Education as an “Introduction to Systems Diagnostics, Service and Repair.”
“We also incorporate career building skills and techniques as a component of our class,” the company stated. “Students leave our course knowing the basics of portfolio building, resume writing and interview tactics.”
Di Giulio said students would be industry-certified “by the actual builders of the bikes,” and the program would feature ten bike stations with the necessary tools for each. Once underway, ten to twenty students at a time could become certified in bike mechanics, Di Giulio said.
He explained that while the program in California is focused on transportation, here its focus would be recreation. He said that due to the many opportunities for biking in the area, including Hardwick Trails right behind the school, and the upcoming completion of the Lamoille Valley Rail Trail, he expects the number of bikes in the area would increase.
“The area is just exploding with mountain biking as a sport, industry, and recreation, and students can get in on that,” he said.
He offered the example of his previous school, Lyndon Institute. “I had students at my last school that went through the program, became certified, and started a mobile repair service out of a trailer,” he recalled. “They would go to the trailhead to repair bikes right there. Some others went to Northern Vermont University at Lyndon to explore outdoor recreation as a career, using this as a building block.”
Di Giulio said he hopes to expand the basic program to include community-oriented features and inspire students to think creatively about mountain biking.
“How do we get to work, build trails, [perform] trail maintenance?’” he asked rhetorically. “That kind of approach really helps students to not just gain the technical skills of how to repair these complex things, but also how to interface with the public, lead tours, and make a living here.”
Di Giulio said establishing a synergistic relationship with Northern Vermont University at Lyndon or Johnson could afford students a dual-enrollment opportunity. Through a type of dual enrollment, students could be involved in those schools’ outdoor recreation programming, which could “provide students more viable options about how to stay in the area [after graduation].”
Project Bike Tech will take an estimated $60,000 of investment to launch, he said. The school is investigating whether grant funding or recovery money might help pay for it, or if some community partners might be interested in helping make the program happen. Di Giulio said if things progress quickly, it is possible that the program could launch sometime in the second half of the school year, but next year is more likely.
Like the upcoming Amazon coding skills program for middle schoolers, Project Bike Tech is part of the school’s individualistic approach to education. “We hope that these [programs] can really appeal to students that learn in lots of different ways,” Di Giulio said. “This is the place where they can explore pathways and seize a future for themselves.”