February 01, 2004

Help Educate youth: Buy a CAT Bent or Trailer

Caught up with mechanical genius and businessman, Jan (pronounced Yawn) VanDertuin of Human Powered Machines and the Center for Appropriate Transport (CAT) , on the phone last week. Finally!! We had been playing tag for weeks. And talk about a powerhouse for all things bicycle up there in Oregon! In the half hour or so that we talked, we covered so much ground that I am sure that this recollection will leave things out. The three major areas of excitement were his part in a successful charter school , CAT's bicycle journalism class that may cover our Mayors' Ride reception up there in Eugene and the, no kidding, truly astonishing two wheel Super Heroes who may also work some of their magic for our ride!

Jan's CAT is a part of the Network Charter School (NCS) that itself combines seven already established nonprofit study areas of interest. Taken from the NCS web , they are:

Le Petit Gourmet: Culinary arts, special education, GED training, literacy training, remedial English and Math
Nearby Nature: Environmental and nature studies
Full Circle Farm: Educational farming project emphasizing sustainable agriculture
Materials Exchange Center for Community Arts: Community arts education utilizing recycled materials
Skinner City Farm: Educational community gardening and youth farm program emphasizing local history and civics education
Creative Minds: Personalized student academics including Language Arts, Math, Social Studies, Art, and Science
Center for Appropriate Transport: Bicycle-based school emphasizing fabrication, repair, journalism, photography

In its second year of operation, NCS has the express focus of teaching its 90 kids (and growing) how to achieve not just for themselves but for the community at large. And it is here that Jan's CAT has been teaching life skills as it teaches kids about bikes since 1992. And within CAT there are six almost stand alone modules. Again (synopsized) from CAT's part of the NCS web, these are:

- Bike Lab
Provides participants a working knowledge of the use of bicycle tools along with the principles of physics and geometry as they relate to frame design and wheel building.
- Eugene Rack Works
A local business venture operated by youth, ERW fabricates and sells high quality tubular bicycle parking racks.
- Chainlinks
This is a journalism photography program offering students the chance to be involved with media production.
This program introduces the basics of both Computer Aided Design and Computer Aided Manufacturing, as used in the bicycle and metal working industries.
- Bicycle Framebuilding Apprenticeship Program
This program teaches young adults learn how to build and assemble bicycle frames as well as how to work together as a team.
- Industrial Sewing
This program teaches how to design and construct products ranging from recumbent bike seats to folding bike bags to rain gear.

And Jan is working feverishly withe rest of the NCS team to satisfy the state education board with this exciting approach to education. WoW!!

While through the Human Powered Machines component above, Jan's kids already build a respected line of recumbent bicycles and bike trailers, when I spoke with him he suggested that we see if we can't build Chain Links into our Mayors' Ride next summer. He and program director Carl Benedek, who I spoke with a few days later, both agreed that much good could come out of our working together . Chain Links produces the widely read and much respected journal about Oregon cycling called "Oregon Cycling" (for an on-line version ). And it is here that 12 to 18 year old CAT kids are producing a cutting edge publication that makes use of exceptional writing and a lot of the latest advances in digital art and photo technology. Jan kept talking about how amazing their work truly is when I suggested that they build a documentary that could incorporate their photographic and writing skills around our nearby Eugene Mayor's reception on Friday May 21st.

Carl wants to talk with his kids, but he thought that perhaps they could do a story in "Oregon Cycling" on Arcata Mayor Bob Ornelas who will be riding from the Eugene Mayor's reception to Arcata. He also thought they could also do some short story work explaining how we are using our Mayors' Rides to build a consciousness for the National Bicycle Greenway. Other possible story ideas that we talked about could include a follow up on fellow Oregonian Andrew Heckman who nearly gave his life for the NBG. We thought that today, despite the injuries Andrew sustained, how, as a Car Free person, he is able to have a more complete life thanks to the great public transportation system in Portland.

With copy built around such a theme, as per the above, CAT kids can learn how to be newsmakers themselves as they build excitement for our arrival. Whereupon, they will then be able to also document all the excitement they will have helped to create at Eugene City Hall come May 21!!

Carl even offered to help us with his local radio connections! As a DJ at KWVA, he said he would be sure to get air time for the PSA that Libby Aubrey is creating for us!! And do whatever else he can to get our event known about!!

Super Heroes
Jan also told me about the Super Heroes. Supportive of CAT but not directly involved, the Heroes are led by an energetic man of love named Ethan Hughes who I also had the privilege of talking to this week. At the millennium, Ethan determined that he wanted to place his mission of being of service to others on as big a level as his resources permitted. He had lots of friends, a bicycle and a burning desire to show America that giving to our brothers and sisters is what it is all about. Because, as he and I agreed, we are all one and when we give we are just giving to ourselves.

So in the summer of 2000 with the above tools, he and 40 or so other cyclists donned Super Man capes as they biked coast to coast across America picking up trash, moving baseball bleachers, installing community gardens, painting fences, helping to build a new library in one city and a ball field in another, and even finding a lost whitewater rafter, etc, etc..On the road for 4,000 miles and four months, they rode into towns along the way with their capes flying and asked where they could be of service. Despite the fact that their mission was not about publicity, their Summer of 2000, which competed with all of the other amazing things that were taking place in America at that time ( Cycle America 2000 happened then as well) was still a huge success. And with the huge volume of press they got, since the Heroes would not accept compensation, hundreds of donors sent many thousands of dollars to the various charities that the Super Heroes had determined would be worthy.

When Ethan and I spoke a couple of days ago, I truly felt like I was talking to a very wise man indeed. While Ethan expresses the love he feels for life out of intuition, I have had to make it a very disciplined study in overcoming the mess my brain injury had made of my life. And I still study Love today as I work to make a Greenway real. Maybe we can all learn from Ethan, a true Master in this regard.

Ethan told me he does feel driven to bring his Super Heroes closer to our effort, despite the fact that they are doing a one month run in Tennessee this summer and crossing Canada in 2005. But Ethan did say he would bring us up to Hero Affiliates that they have in place in Arcata, Sacramento, Oakland and Berkeley. Who knows what might comes of this!!

If you want to read more about the the Super Heroes, and the genuine story of hope that they represent, check out this story.

And it is the kind of magic that I talk about above that happens when you do as Jan has done and get a lot of bike people together!!


Posted by mkreig at February 1, 2004 05:53 PM