Tamatea High School Trades Academy students, in training at EIT, are to race mini motorbikes they built themselves at a “Grand Prix” at Manfield next week.
The six or seven students will be taking part in the Mini MotorSport Grand Prix, a three-day event that is expected to attract about 100 entrants from 23 schools nationwide.
Building the bikes is a first for Tamatea High School Trades Academy students – and the opportunity to test their automotive engineering skills as well as their lap times has proved a great training incentive, say EIT Hawke’s Bay tutors John Banks and Stuart Hannam.
The 11 students in the academy class attend EIT one day a week to learn hands-on trades and technology skills. Earlier this year, they studied carpentry, constructing dolls houses as a practical exercise. This semester, they have been building the mini motorbikes – a project that has really fired their imagination and captured the imagination of their teachers and families.
The 50cc bikes arrrive at EIT in a pack, complete with motor, brakes, wheels, exhaust, tyres, fuel tank and flaring. Each student is required to build the frame and steering head, design many of the brackets, assemble the bike to ensure all the frame fixtures fit neatly together, then take it apart, sand, prime and paint the parts and reassemble the bike.
The final step is the road test, which the students – licensed by MotorSport New Zealand – did on campus last weekend. The bikes, with a low centre of gravity, are capable of reaching speeds of up to 50-60kph.
The Grand Prix gets underway on Monday (October 18) with scrutineering and a briefing. There are separate events for air-cooled, water-cooled and sidecar motorbikes and the racing will be held over two days for different weight classes.
Local sponsors have got behind the Hawke’s Bay effort, with Fletcher Easysteel providing all the steel for the bikes, and CN Profile Cutting Services doing a lot of the cutting for different parts of the bikes for free.
“Students have also secured their own sponsorship,” John, the programme coordinator, says, “and they came in to work on their bikes during the school holidays, so there’s been great buy-in. School staff and parents have also shown a lot of interest, and there’s even a grandfather joining us at Manfield.”
In planning the exercise, John and Stu travelled to the Manawatu to talk to Feilding High School technology teacher Roger Emerson, who helped establish the annual event six years ago.
“He was formerly into motorsport himself, especially bikes” Stu points out, “and he was very helpful, giving us a lot of information.”
The two tutors are delighted the project has been such a success. As John says: “Students get their own sponsorship, they work to a deadline to build the bikes, those who meet that are then able to test their skills on a racing circuit and at the end of it all, they get to take their bikes home.”