(Photo by Stephen Babcock)
Through an open door at a Southwest Baltimore recreation center on a recent Monday, and mini dirt bikes were looping around one half of the floor. On the other side of the temporary track, instructors in lab coats helped students mix polymers and learn about why oil and water don’t mix.
As they experimented, well-known dirt bike rider Chino Braxton moved through some of the stations.
The group was gathered by B360, the Baltimore organization founded by Brittany Young that harnesses the passion for dirt bikes that’s on view around the city to teach engineering skills. Part of B360’s mission is to change the perception of dirt bike riding, which remains illegal in Baltimore. Young has said she wants to work with local government on solutions.
For the students, the program itself focuses on introducing skills that could lead to technical and engineering jobs. Young seeks to teach the mechanics and concepts behind how dirt bikes work. Before the students rode the mini dirt bikes, they also worked to put them together. And while they many in Baltimore marvel at the vertical wheelies of the 12 O’Clock Boys, B360 offers students a lesson on combustion and what needs to happen in the engine to create the perfect balance, Young said.
The students gathered at the James McHenry Recreation Center ranged in age from 7-17, and were led by instructors from Poly, Mervo and the Center for Urban Families.
In a Q&A with students, Braxton shared thoughts on coming up in Baltimore riding dirt bikes, and offered some safety tips, including to wear a helmet. He said riding was a positive influence for him. “Dirt bikes got me to the next level,” Braxton said. As the Baltimore Sun reported recently, Braxton has been signed as an influencer by Roc Nation Sports and Under Armour, and is also set to appear in a feature film about the 12 O’Clock Boys starring Will Smith.
Yesterday was magical! Thank you @ChinoMmg for stopping by to surprise our students, getting hands on and showing the importance of giving back to move forward 🏍 🔧🔬 #b360 #chino #dirtbikes #baltimore #STEM #mybmore #charmcity pic.twitter.com/RCVUjNomDb
— B-360 (@B360Balt) October 30, 2018
The program’s combination of STEAM skills and dirt bikes immediately draws attention, but it wasn’t the only combination on view. Along with introducing engineering topics, it’s clear providing inspiration for students to pursue their talents is also a part of the effort.
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