Dream Bikes Give Students A Boost

Project gives lessons in art, science and engineering; students showcase 'rides' at the Lowrider/Dream Bike Parade.

Each of 48 Atkins students received a Schwinn StingRay, purchased by the T-STEM Center, to assemble and redesign. Each of 48 Atkins students received a Schwinn StingRay, purchased by the T-STEM Center, to assemble and redesign.
Texas Tech University’s School of Art in the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and the T-STEM (Texas-Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) Center, along with Atkins Middle School, present the Lowrider/Dream Bike Parade. This is the fourth year that the School of Art has partnered with a school from the Lubbock area in presenting an art bike project. However, K-12 academic outreach has not been part of the equation. The T-STEM Center, part of a State of Texas initiative designed to motivate and prepare more K-12 students for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, is working with the School of Art to help teachers use the lowrider bike project to reinforce and apply the science and math concepts that the students are learning in the classroom. Atkins is 79 percent minority and 78 percent of students come from economically disadvantaged families. The school is working to remediate its Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) scores from a 2007 School Accountability Rating of Academically Unacceptable.

Community Collaboration

“Seeing the excitement and enthusiasm on these students’ faces is a perfect reminder of why an integrated approach to STEM education is so important,” said John Chandler, a director of the T-STEM Center. “When you give students engaging opportunities to learn – like designing a lowrider bike – they remember the concepts forever. The School of Art is to be commended for reaching out to the students at Atkins with a project that combines art and science in a context that every middle school kid cares about – a really cool bike,” Chandler said. This year Future Akins-Tillett, assistant professor in visual studies, worked with Atkins art teacher Lyn Brown, science teacher Dawn Bullock and 48 of their students. Each student involved received a Schwinn StingRay, purchased by the T-STEM Center. Akins-Tillet says the partnership with the T-STEM center has helped take the project to new heights. “We have worked with LISD twice before, we just never worked with T-STEM. Problem solving is always a vital part of creativity. This year, with the help of T-STEM, we had working bikes to begin with which added emphasis on assembling the bikes, taking them apart and putting them together again the way the kids visualized them.”

Sharpening Skills; Problem Solving

Brown said that aside from being a great art project, one of the program’s objectives is to sharpen the students’ upper-level thinking skills and common sense, which would help them on a standardized test.
Students from Atkins Middle School put their newly assembled Schwinn StingRays through their paces at Safety City. Students put their newly assembled Schwinn StingRays through their paces at Safety City.
Bullock agrees. “Mostly, it’s the problem solving that I’m really excited about because our students need to be able to take any content they’ve learned in any area, apply it and solve problems. The questions on the TAKS are application questions. So they have to find a way to understand what the question is asking, read through the possible choices, and see what makes sense and what doesn’t.”

Thinking outside the box

Students have been working on designing their bikes and disassembling them for construction since March.

Texas Tech Visual Studies students, along with others, lent a hand to the students in “tricking out” the bikes for the parade.

Also participating in the parade is Texas Tech’s kinetics sculpture class, led by Will Cannings, associate professor of sculpture. Their recent creations focus on designing, rethinking and expanding on the concept of bikes and movement.

More LowRider Bikes

In collaboration with the Lowrider/Dream Bike Parade, doctoral student Kyle McQuilkin organized an exhibition of lowrider bikes in the Architecture Gallery (9th floor of the Architecture Building). The exhibition will not only showcase bikes by the Atkins students, but also bikes from local lowrider groups.

Read the full story in VISTAS | A Higher Form of Low Art

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