How Bikes for Students is helping students inside and outside the classroom

Associate Professor of Science and Mathematics Don Crall at the Northeast Campus is on a mission to give bikes and teach his students about manufacturing in the process.

Because they had to walk to the Northeast campus every day, and faced cat calling while walking, Aidan Finnell, an engineering student at Tulsa Community College (TCC), had a hard time getting to school. Now having received a bike from Bikes for Students, Finnell, who prefers the pronouns they/them, can now safely get to their classes and work at the TCC Transfer Center.

“I haven’t had a bike since I was 11, so I do kind of feel like a kid again,” Finnell said. 

As the student leaves the Northeast Engineering Building with a bike, Crall is standing glowing talking about how this service-learning project impacts the community and his students. 

As part of the “Bikes4Tools” service-learning project, students enrolled in a manufacturing maintenance course refurbished donated bikes to give to TCC students in need of transportation to school or work. 

Finnell believes reliable transportation is important and it has made a world of difference for them. 

“I’ve been giddy about it since I saw the announcement,” they added. Finnell feels at peace now, not needing to spend $100-200 for a brand new bike.

Students have shared how having access to transportation is important to attending college and addressing inequity, which can create barriers for students.

Donated bikes in the manufacturing maintenance classroom are available for students. Photo provided.

Bikes4Kids began seven years ago

The project began when Crall created the “Bikes4Kids” project seven years ago at Union Public Schools. Crall would collect 50-200 bikes throughout the year. Of the bicycles collected, the team identified which bikes were salvageable and which bikes would be used for parts. After this assessment, then his manufacturing class transformed the inventory of bikes into 60-80 usable bikes for elementary students.

This year,Crall noticed a need, and with a TCC Foundation Grant, he created the “Bikes4Tools” service-learning project. 

The name signifies how refurbishing bikes allows for tools to be maintained, “downtime is the worst thing manufacturers can experience. Keeping equipment in top working order is the only way to produce quality products.”

For each product on the assembly line to be identical, equipment has to be perfect. 

In the manufacturing maintenance course, students learn about gears, pulleys, brakes and linkages. As Crall puts it, “That’s [the same equipment] on the bike, just on a bigger scale.” 

“The Bikes4Tools service-learning project gives students the opportunity to practice skills they have learned in the classroom and help others at the same time,” he added.

“And what we hope is, when they [the students] get out of school, they continue doing this and they care more about others,” he explained.

Associate Professor of Mathematics and Science Don Crall stands behind of one of the many bikes that will be given to students. Photo provided

Student technicians wanted

The manufacturing maintenance class is the fourth course in the Certified Production Technician (CPT) program. As part of the program, students learn preventive and predictive maintenance concepts, assessing when to fix a given product. The course focuses on how frontline workers in manufacturing can maintain expensive equipment. 

His class hopes to address such questions as: What’s a major problem? What’s its minor problem? What’s your responsibility to keep those machines running? And when do you call the professional to come in and repair? 

After graduating from the program, the students will work in a manufacturing business. The potential businesses include a wide range of industries such as building aerospace parts or energy equipment.

“We’re just desperate for workers. I have people. If you were to go tell them that you’re in my class right now, they would hire you knowing that you’re going to get that degree,” he said.

Adult bikes that are not given to students are donated to the Veterans Work Program at Volunteers of America. The program has already met the needs of three veterans and have committed to at least 10 more bikes this semester.

For those interested in receiving or donating bikes, contact Don Crall at don.crall@tulsacc.edu

Aidan Finnell receives a new bike from the “Bikes4Tools” program. Photo provided