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Brookfield East teens build Honda 350 from salvaged motorcycle parts

Robert D’Amato (left) a Brookfield East High School sophomore, works with mentor Joe Haupt at Hal’s Harley-Davidson on Monday, April 7. D’Amato is part of a team of teens building a motorcycle from salvaged parts for the BUILD program.

Robert D’Amato (left) a Brookfield East High School sophomore, works with mentor Joe Haupt at Hal’s Harley-Davidson on Monday, April 7. D’Amato is part of a team of teens building a motorcycle from salvaged parts for the BUILD program. Photo By Mary Catanese

April 14, 2014

Unlike some of the other members of Hal's Harley-Davidson Brookfield Team, high school student Jack Leonovicz wasn't raised in a motorcycle-friendly household.

"My family was really against motorcycles," said Leonovicz, a sophomore at Brookfield East High School. "They thought they were dangerous ... but I've really got into them since joining the team. It's been really cool to work on this bike."

Leonovicz joined the team in February, when the group began building a Honda 350 motorcycle from salvaged parts for the BUILD Moto Mentoring and Scholarship Program.

BUILD Moto, established in 2010, is an after-school program that connects high school students with faculty advisers and skilled mentors to construct a motorcycle from other salvaged, rusted bikes with a budget of about $4,400.

"The main focus of BUILD is to help students appreciate what goes into building a bike and forging teamwork to create one," said Joe Haupt, lead mentor for the Brookfield team. "The program is also meant to bring attention to the need for teaching technology education in schools."

Mentors lead the way

Although not affiliated with the Elmbrook School District, the team has three other BEHS students as members: Gabe Haupt, Robert D'Amato and Mitch Mikulsky. Brett Mueller from West Bend East High School round out the team.

The students are trained by a group of seven mentors, who each specialize in a certain field, from welding to graphic design. Most of the mentors are affiliated with MilVinMoto, an organization for Milwaukee vintage motorcyclist enthusiasts.

Wes Orloff, an engineer for Harley-Davidson, joined the team of BUILD mentors for the first time this year.

"I thought it would be awesome to participate," Orloff said. "I like to race … and when I heard that these kids were building a Honda 350, that's all the excuse I needed. I have kids, but they're 3 and 5, so it's nice to work on bikes with these guys. I'm blown away by how sharp they are. I'm impressed with them every time."

The students meet every Monday evening at Hal's Harley-Davidson in New Berlin at 1925 S. Moorland Road.

Joe Haupt said BUILD bikes typically are constructed in the associated high schools, but the Elmbrook School District was unable to plan for the program due to time limitations.

The students were allocated one of the bike shop's service bays for three months to work on the motorcycle. The bike is now halfway to completion.

"Hal's was very generous in donating this space," Joe Haupt said, "because, frankly, we were going to do this in my garage, which would have been awful. I mean, we'd be freezing these past few months."

Goal is performance

The students said they enjoy working together and learning about motorcycles from their mentors.

Haupt's son, Gabe, said he grew up around automobiles but BUILD was a new experience entirely.

"It seems like you get more accomplished ... (here) than just wrenching by yourself in the garage," Gabe Haupt said. "We're just a bunch of guys getting together and building a bike. It's pretty cool."

The Brookfield team will compete against teams from Shorewood High School, St. Francis High School, Bradley Technology and Trade School and Running Rebels Community Organization.

The motorcycles will debut June 5 at The Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, which is the primary sponsor of the BUILD program.

The bikes will be judged in multiple categories for performance, and trophies and scholarships will be awarded to the winners.

Following the debut, the bikes will race in several events around the Midwest, including the American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association's Vintage Race Weekend in June.

After the contest

The program ends in September, when the bikes are auctioned to the public at The Iron Horse Hotel. Proceeds from the auction will go to fund future BUILD programs.

But the camaraderie among Team Brookfield members already extends beyond the program, Leonovicz said.

"We all have our (motorcycle) license, and we're going to start taking our certification classes soon," he said. "I'm already looking at getting a new motorcycle, and I'll start working on it once (BUILD) is over."

As for Leonovicz's hesitant parents?

"They think it's really cool I've been doing this, now," Leonovicz said, with a proud grin. "I've actually convinced them to let me ride."

For information about BUILD, visit BuildMoto.com.

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