The DERP Bike!

The story of the Derp Bike begins with a re-wire of the elementary school. The I.T. staff had a quote for $120,000 to rewire the school to gigabit Ethernet and dual-band wifi and they thought that was utterly ridiculous. For about $5,000 they bought a new set of gigabit power over Ethernet or P.O.E. switches and a dual-band wireless solution. When finished, the rack looked very sloppy so for another $120 they bought color-coded patch cables for the switch rack and, “because diversity,” decided to do the wires in a lovely French braid. Whatever.

So there was this big cardboard box of fine copper Ethernet left over. It couldn’t be re-used because it didn’t have the hood for OSHA compliance so they decided to take it to the scrap yard. At the scrap yard they received about $90 which subtracting mileage, would go to the DERP Gang. In Jack and the Beanstalk fashion, the I.T. staff spent all the money on something else.

The DERP Bike!

It was risky but they knew a few of the kids in the gang rode dirt bikes. One of the guiding principles of the DERP Gang is to have objective-based learning. The objective is usually to take home a free computer. To reach that objective the gang has to build the computers from parts and install an operating system. The DERP bike could have had a bad motor, or controller, it certainly had bad batteries and was missing it’s charger.

The DERP gang had previously refurbished an Apple computer and sold it to buy a 3D printer kit so the model of self-sufficiency was well-established. A $13 charger was purchased off a popular online auction site and they were able to test the motor controller and batteries. The batteries were nearly dead but everything else worked! We tore down the bike, un-soldered the batteries, Sold more scrap from batteries at the Chaplin transfer station; (thanks Jack and Dave!) Bought new batteries, re-design an on-board charger, heat off old decals, clean all electrical connectors, buy new electrical connectors, new handlebars. We bought a new rear tube and discovered two large nails through the tire! We learned how to use motorcycle tire levers borrowed from a staff member. We had to soak the chain in oil, clean the rusty rims with a wire wheel. The bike was now rolling and stopping. Disc brakes were tested and cables re-adjusted.

As school went remote, one class graduated and one came up into DERPitude. As we returned to school, the myth of the DERP Bike grew. Students stopped by the door of the DERP Gang room and stared at the progress. Who’s pushing a motorcycle through the halls of the school? It’s been difficult this year working around social distancing and intermittently going remote. Some of us had to live-stream the first test ride but we did it! From the scrap yard to a triumphant working electric vehicle!

Generate checklist,

Generate experiments for battery testing,

Get permission slips,

Decide on a test-rider. Logan Bennet was decided upon because he’s the most experienced and regularly rides much faster dirt bikes. (We’re country kids.) Like Neil Armstrong though, it’s equal science and piloting skills with Logan.

Bam! Overnight charging, go through the checklist, let’s add the A to STEAM by designing some decals for the bike. Bam!

Timers ready? Check!

NOAA weather readings? Check!

Lap Counters ready? Check!

Bam! Two miles and ten minutes later we have a solid DERP bike with no Derpy failures!


What’s next you ask? We add a rooted, Android-based dashboard, an on-board camera, perhaps modify the connectors for more efficient power transfer from the batteries. We may modify the throttle too.

Check back with the DERP gang, we’re way better at doing the science than posting to the web about it.

The DERP gang would like to thank Mr. Chavez for sharing our vision, Mr. Burelle for incorporating his unit on energy into the DERP Bike Project, John’s Scrap in Columbia, Connecticut for the DERP Bike itself, The University of Connecticut Public Surplus Store, and all the parents who allowed their children to get their hands dirty on this project! Let’s never forget Mrs. Charlotte Shead who as Chaplin’s first woman first selectman, built this beautiful school in which we can learn!

Read about our previous projects here.