December 12, 2017
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John Bapst student commutes to school on a motorcycle he built

By Nell Gluckman, BDN Staff

BANGOR, Maine — It only took two weeks for Teagan Prince to put 370 miles on his motorcycle. He uses it to get to John Bapst Memorial High School from his home in Veazie nearly every day and takes it for rides around the city whenever he gets a chance, rain or shine.

Prince, 18, rides his vehicle with particular pride. Eight months ago, the 1975 Honda CB550k existed in hundreds of pieces, stored in seven boxes at a garage in Bucksport. The high school senior bought the parts for $200 and spent most of the year putting it together at the United Technologies Center in Bangor, where he takes classes in the afternoon.

Prince is one of about 550 students attending UTC this year. The program allows high school students from Bangor and neighboring communities to take classes to gain technical skills, such as welding, plumbing and outdoor power technology — as Prince has done this year.

The senior is unique in that he paired advanced placement classes in English and statistics with the vocational program, according to his guidance counselor at John Bapst, Nick Umphrey.

“It’s a program that, unfortunately, is always thought of as for kids who are not AP students, but he’s bucking that trend,” Umphrey said.

The program has been hands on, Prince said. Every afternoon, five days a week, he goes to the center where he spent some time in class but mostly works on small engines.

UTC students can work on anything from their neighbor’s lawn mower to the snowmobiles that belong to Maine game wardens and bear biologists to boats and all-terrain vehicles. Their instructor, George Bergeron, is always nearby, ready to help out when necessary.

Bergeron said Prince was good at blending the research skills he acquired at John Bapst with the technical capabilities he acquired at UTC.

“He’s not only academically smart, but he can put it together,” he said.

Though Prince started working on building his motorcycle in his mom’s basement, he was able to bring it into UTC and finish there with the center’s equipment.

“I don’t think I realized how much of a project it was,” he said, recalling the many hours of labor he poured into the machine. The first task was to determine which pieces were missing, then find and replace them. After doing the mechanical work, Prince said he spent two months figuring out how to connect the electrical wires in his 39-year-old motorcycle. Prince’s father upholstered a seat for him, and the parts were painted at UTC’s auto body shop.

The style of bike is called a cafe racer, he said. They were popular in England in the 1960s and ’70s, when motorcyclists would modify them, reducing their weight and turning the handlebars upside down, forcing the rider to practically lie down, in order to maximize speed.

“Then you’d race your buddy from cafe to cafe,” Prince said. “I have always liked the look of that.”

By mid-May, the motorcycle was ready to ride, and Prince has been using it every chance he gets.

This fall, Prince will head to the University of Maine’s College of Engineering.

Bergeron said Prince can transfer the skills he learned working on a small engine to the design or construction of any size project.

“When he designs something, he’s also going to be thinking about the technician that’s going to do the repair work on this,” Bergeron said, explaining more and more students who are going on to earn degrees at Maine Maritime Academy and engineering colleges are enrolling at UTC in high school.

In the meantime, Prince plans to spend the summer taking apart and rebuilding the motorcycle again. He said he’d like to cut down on the amount of oil it burns and fix the white exhaust that comes out the back when he’s riding. Then it will be ready for his commute to UMaine.

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