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2013 Donnie Smith Chopper Class Challenge

By Fred Mathews

ST. PAUL, MINN., MARCH 23-24–The Donnie Smith Chopper Class Challenge (DSCCC) was started in 2004 as means for schools to be able to show off their custom motorcycle-building skills while competing at the same level as other schools. It is not just about bringing a custom bike and putting it on display for two days. Schools that wish to participate need to teach their students to learn more than just cutting and welding. To enter the DSCCC, each class needs to meet some requirements of the program. The class must keep detailed records of its build including parts that are donated, bought or sold, along with hours worked and the designs along the way. Photos throughout the build also help. This helps the students realize there is more to building motorcycles than just a few wrenches and shop tools. These requirements bring other aspects of learning together in a shop-class environment.

The Eden High School Chopper Class' build is powered by a 500cc Buell Blast! engine

The Eden High School Chopper Class’ build is powered by a 500cc Buell Blast! engine

Once at the Donnie Smith Bike Show, the students then need to promote their bike to all the people there in order to get votes. Students pass out ballots while explaining their build in hopes of getting votes for the People’s Choice award. Learning to be an orator and presenter is a valuable skill to carry through the rest of your life, and DSCCC helps students to be well-rounded while still learning more about what they love—motorcycles!

Each year thousands of ride-deprived motorcyclists show up to see what has been brewing over the winter months. Donnie Smith, being from the custom bike craze of the ’60s, continues to put out some great-looking rides while also hosting a great show. Seeing the potential to help our youth grow into the motorcycle scene, it just made sense for Donnie to help the chopper class idea grow.

Currently there are about eight high schools across North America that have a chopper class. Some hold the class as part of the school curriculum, while others offer it as an after-school club. Most of these clubs are on their own for funding. They look for sponsors to get them going and, if things go well, they can sell their built bikes to help pay for future builds. Others have to tear down their most recent builds and start over with many of the same parts. They also get time to look at all the other bikes while scouting out new ideas for their next build. It is with the exposure they get at the Donnie Smith Bike Show that allows them to pick up sponsors and donations from the public.

Mitchell Technical Institute's build, titled "Money Pit," started as a donated 1983 H-D XLH Sportster

Mitchell Technical Institute’s build, titled “Money Pit,” started as a donated 1983 H-D XLH Sportster

Classes that have participated in the DSCCC have had some great results. Many of the instructors report they have had students that appeared to be going downhill make a complete turnaround and leave school with a positive plan for their life. Often you will find students in a chopper class that didn’t really fit in elsewhere and now have a sense of belonging. Many instructors hold their students to higher standards in order to participate at the DSCCC, just as most athletes have to keep their grades up to play sports. Chopper class has so much more to offer besides just an advanced shop class.

This year only three of the schools could make the show, with the other schools not able to raise enough money for their self-funded budget to travel and stay in St. Paul. Housing up to eight students (boys and girls mean more rooms) and feeding them takes some cash. The chopper classes present were La Crescent-Hokah Chopper Class from La Crescent, Minnesota, the Mitchell Technical Institute build team from Mitchell, South Dakota, and the Eden Chopper Class from Eden, New York.

There were six awards classes this year: the 3R (Recycle, Reuse, Rebuild) Award, which is dedicated to those who do more with less; the Presentation Award; the Design and Innovation Award given for creating new, interesting and original concepts; the Technical Excellence Award for demonstrating and presenting the highest degree of mastery; the Traveling Award that represents the ideals of the DSCCC, school, community, state and country; and the Overall Award for surpassing all challenges.

Each student also received a participation award signed by Donnie Smith. In the end, all the students win as they get to grow and develop in ways that standard classroom teaching might not ever offer. Instructors, often on their own time, think outside the box and find ways to reach out to students. If you have a chance, please help them with things such as donating parts (even used parts), cash, buying T-shirts and even giving both students and instructors a pat on the back for the hard work they are doing. The skills the kids derive from this will lead them to bigger and better things in life.

Find out more about the program at Facebook by searching for “Donnie Smith Chopper Class Challenge.” If you’d like to get involved via sponsorship, parts or cash donations, you can reach Scottie Ard, who puts this all together, at scottieard@gmail.com Scottie, who cares deeply about the kids and the program, puts a lot of time and effort into making this a success and helping it grow.

2013 DSCCC Awards
3R Award: La Crescent-Hokah
Presentation Award: Mitchell Tech
Design and Innovation Award: Eden
People’s Choice: Mitchell Tech
Technical Excellence: La Crescent-Hokah
Traveling Award: Eden
Overall Award: Mitchell Tech

 

Members of the Mitchell Tech Chopper Class receive their awards from Donnie Smith

Members of the Mitchell Tech Chopper Class receive their awards from Donnie Smith

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