Indy summer program teaches kids skills while building bikes

Nine13sports in Indianapolis is bringing back a fan-favorite program for kids this summer.

INDIANAPOLIS — Nine13sports in Indianapolis is bringing back a fan-favorite program for kids this summer: Kids Building Bikes.

Tom Hanley is the CEO of Nine13sports and an organizer of Kids Building Bikes.

“We really look at the bike as the hook to get them in,” Hanley said. “But these lifelong skills they learn are why we created the program.”

Kids Building Bikes is a hands-on educational program designed to put tools in the hands of children. During a four-week, 16-hour program, they learn to problem solve, persevere, and think outside the box.

Students do this by building their own brand new bike.

“Give them the opportunity to learn those skills,” Hanley said, “and ultimately build a brand new bike that they earn and take with them, along with a helmet, lock, and tool set. .”

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The idea came after Hanley launched Kids Riding Bikes in 2012. He said the program saw immediate success and growth.

“We realized we had a bigger opportunity,” Hanley said, “That’s what ultimately led to the Kids Building Bikes concept.”

The Bike Lab, as it’s called, is located in a historic warehouse just off 29th Street near the canal on the northwest side of Indianapolis.

“We have 12 workstations here,” Hanley said. “We are able to work with 12 students at a time. Each student has their own work bench with their own set of tools that allows them to work and do whatever they need to do on the bike.”

Between all the tools and tires inside the Bike Lab is also some pretty high-tech equipment for enhanced learning.

“We actually installed a camera system that allows students to remain at their benches while the instructor teaches, while being convenient but still at a safe distance,” Hanley said.

Matty Bennett is one of the instructors in the Kids Building Bikes program. It uses the camera system to better instruct and communicate with students.

“One of the big things about this program is knowing how to shift and when to shift,” Bennett said. “So to see that chain and all of the different parts and components that go into the rear derailleur, just one component of about 40 different components that we break the bike down into, is really a game-changer.”

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At the end of the session, once every piece is locked in place, it’s time to put the students’ skills to the ultimate test – a bike ride on the last day of work.

“If we can capture a fourth- or fifth-grade student, just by putting a screwdriver in their hand or a wrench in their hand and teaching them how to use it,” Hanley said, “and then opening their eyes to all these different possibilities, we did our job here at Nine13, and ultimately Indianapolis is better off.”

Hanley says Nine13sports operates with the mindset that “the bike is the ultimate equalizer.” He says children of all shapes, sizes and socio-economic backgrounds can learn to build and ride a bike.

“In fact, for us, it’s the vehicle you can drive whether you’re eight or 80,” Hanley said.

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The organizers encourage interested parents to register their child before Friday June 17, with the first summer session starting on Monday June 20.

“Being able to look at their face when they realize that the bike they’re learning on is the same thing they’re ultimately going to build so they can take it home,” Hanley said. “Just that light bulb moment, that magic. It takes me back to my childhood of that brand new bike.”

If your child isn’t available this summer, however, Hanley said Nine13sports offers hands-on, interactive programming year-round.

Hanley said there is a cost associated with the program, but thanks to available scholarships, the program could cost as little as $20 for the entire four-week session.

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