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Friday March 30, 2007

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Class project is illuminating
BCC students' cycle taillight gets celebrity status, TV time



VALERIE ZEHL / Press & Sun-Bulletin

Gary DiGiacomo, assistant professor of electrical engineering technology at Broome Community College, uses hands-on projects as learning tools. One of the students' motorcycle taillights will be featured on television this weekend.

TOWN OF CHENANGO -- It's really tough being a student in Gary DiGiacomo's electrical engineering technology program at Broome Community College.

It's all hitting the books, suffering through lectures and spouting off numbers -- no, wait.

That's some other class, in some other curriculum.

DiGiacomo's class is nothing short of monumentally cool.

Students learn the principles of electrical engineering through the hands-on approach, making one-of-a-kind products that get put to use once they leave the second floor of the Applied Technology building.

One of their projects will be ogled by a national audience at 11:30 p.m. Saturday, when "Lucas on the Edge" runs on The Speed Channel. And the station will rebroadcast the program at 5 on Monday, DiGiacomo says.

The students dovetailed their efforts with those of a local business and Milwaukee Iron Motorcycle Corp. in Virginia to create a custom LED taillight for a motorcycle -- and not just any motorcycle, at that.

Milwaukee Iron built this one specifically for the Indianapolis Colts, to commemorate the opening of the team's new stadium. It will come charging onto the football field during each of the NFL team's home games. When the season's done, it will be auctioned on eBay to benefit a hospital for children.

Robert Eck Jr. has two companies in Binghamton: Eck Plastic Arts and Eck Craft Metal Arts, which builds custom mirror and taillight assemblies for motorcycles.

"We got in touch with (the class) two or 2 1/2 years ago," Eck says.

They partnered to work on another class project for Orange County Choppers, which is featured on the hit series American Choppers.

Their taillight didn't appear on the show, though.

"We were really disappointed, but (later) it was in a promo for the Air Force for about 4 seconds," DiGiacomo says.

The students also take field trips to such venues as the Orange County Chopper shop, to the Milwaukee Iron shop in Lynchburg, Va. -- which appeared on the Discovery Channel's Southern Steel -- or to Dave Perewitz's Cycle Fabrication shop in Bridgewater, Mass.

First-year student Michael Brooks of Endicott made the trip to Milwaukee Iron.

"We got to see a lot of his bikes," Brooks says. The class is now on a trip to Perewitz Cycle Fabrication, a company the class hopes to do more work with in the future.

"We worked with the Binghamton Senators, too," DiGiacomo says. They came up with an innovative shots-on-goal counter at the Veterans Arena that has won them a lot of acclaim. "This season, the Senators invited all of us to a game, their treat."

So there's actually no need to pity the poor, hardworking and overstressed students of Gary DiGiacomo's class. In reality, they may be having entirely too much fun.



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