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Free bike repairs put engineers’ skills to use

Two men work on bicycles while a customer waits in the background.

Joshua Johnston, a senior in electrical engineering, and Nathan Dierkes, an chemical engineering junior, fix bicycles in Lowry Mall for MU’s Environmental Leadership Office’s (EOL) Bike Resource Center (BRC). The service offers free bike repair for MU students on Friday afternoons during decent weather.

Dozens of University of Missouri College of Engineering clubs, teams and organizations offer students a variety of ways to extend and expand their college experiences. Add to those possibilities the many additional opportunities across campus, and it can safely be said that, “somewhere there’s a something for everyone.”

Joshua Johnston, a senior in electrical engineering, and Nathan Dierkes, an chemical engineering junior, have found a niche working with the Environmental Leadership Office’s (EOL) Bike Resource Center (BRC). Dierkes also works with its Mizzou Bike Share initiative.

Dierkes explained that in good weather, the BRC group sets up shop under a tent on Lowry Mall from noon until 2 p.m. on Friday afternoons to conduct free bike repairs for MU students.

“I’ve ridden bikes since I was a little kid,” Dierkes said. “In the second semester of my freshman year, I asked if I could help and I just kept coming back.”

The EOL office encourages bicycles as a mode of transportation and supports the repair efforts because bicycles are an affordable and healthy mode of transportation that results in very little environmental impact.

“I was just biking by [the BRC tent] and someone asked me if my bike needed repair and we got to talking,” said Johnston. “I like working on bikes and this was a way I could work on them and learn more about bike repair.

“It’s expensive to repair your bike,” Johnston added. “On a nice Friday afternoon, we can have a line,”

Mizzou Bike Share was initiated on Aug. 27, 2012. The bike-loan program is free to MU students. It allows them to check out a bike for the day from the student center with a valid MU student ID. They must also sign a liability waiver and a use agreement.

“We have 19 bikes in service,” said Dierkes, who helps maintain the bikes. He said that things have gone very well for the program and that eventually, more bikes will be added.

In addition to the BRC program, Dierkes volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. He also has signed up to participate in Mizzou’s Alternative Spring Break program.

“We will do some maintenance around a park [in South Carolina] to prevent invasive species in a swamp area due to the expansion of Charleston,” Dierkes said. “I love being out in nature, and I’d hate to see it go away. I like camping and rock climbing.”

Dierkes also works at MizzouRec’s climbing wall and lends a hand with the Tigers for Community Agriculture program.

“I love it here,” he said.

In addition to his bicycle repair work, Johnston is conducting undergraduate research in the lab of Professor Emeritus Michael Devaney. He also has been a volunteer at the children’s learning garden, helping to prepare the materials and activities the kids will need for their garden efforts. Johnston and his wife also lead a Bible study group at the MU Christian Campus House.

After graduating in December, Johnston will begin working in the water division at Black & Veatch in Kansas City. He said that he and his wife looked for a place to live that would be close enough that he could bike to work, with no luck.

Dierkes, on the other hand will be biking right here on the MU campus for a few more semesters — and fixing other students’ bikes.

“If the weather is bad, we’ll be working under the overhang on the south side of the Student Center,” he said, adding that the group is always looking for helping hands.