Tapping Dirt Bike Culture To Teach STEM Skills
Among some quarters, dirt bikes are practically a dirty word. Motorcycles designed for use on rough terrain, such as unsurfaced roads or tracks, they're seen as the focus of an aggressive and threatening urban culture. Most cities don't allow the off-road vehicles on their streets.
But dirt bike proponents say otherwise. In fact, engineer and technology instructor Brittany Young sees the vehicles and the culture that’s grown up around them as not only a positive force, but a route to teaching young minorities STEM skills. With that in mind, about a year ago, she founded B-360 in Baltimore, a city where you’re not even allowed to own a dirt bike (and which is known as the dirt bike capital of the world). “We’re trying to transform the narrative and empower riders to change their culture,” says Young, a native of West Baltimore.
Young is one of 15 founders in The Red Bull Amaphiko Academy in Baltimore. The 18-month program is a launchpad for grassroots social entrepreneurs. She also recently was named an Echoing Green fellow.
The basic concept is that, without realizing it, serious dirt bike riders draw on a variety of mechanical and real-world engineering skills as part of their hobby. For example, they quickly learn how to repair and customize their vehicles. Those abilities, Young reasoned, were a natural fit for science and engineering jobs. “Most riders start as children and have natural mechanical skills,” says Young. Why not tap the large dirt bike community’s passionate enthusiasm and use it to help local youth and adults to find a way out of poverty?
According to a recent report by the Greater Baltimore Committee and Associated Black Charities, about a quarter of jobs in the Baltimore area require STEM skills.