by Joni Astrup
Students at Spectrum High School in Elk River have a new bike rack, and it’s not just any old bike rack.
Brett Henkemeyer has fashioned an elaborate and artistic bike rack made of components that look like oversized school supplies for his senior project at Spectrum. The 10-foot-long bike rack includes large rulers, yellow pencils and paper clips, as well as an abacus made with colored golf balls.
Brett got the idea last spring when he ran a contest seeking suggestions for a bike rack design. Suzi Bolles, a Spectrum senior, suggested the school supplies theme.
He began working on the bike rack in June and finished it in October. It was unveiled and dedicated Oct. 24 to cheers and applause from Spectrum students.
Brett said Spectrum has never owned a bike rack, so students improvised by using sign posts or hiding their bikes in bushes, which made their bikes more prone to being stolen.
The new bike rack serves a purpose, but does so with an artistic flair.
The project combined Brett’s interests in art, blacksmithing and welding.
He has been interested in art, especially drawing, since early elementary school. He became interested in blacksmithing as a kid as well, after attending his first Renaissance Festival.
Brett started blacksmithing in the summer of 2011. He also took a basic welding course at Anoka Technical College as a Post Secondary Enrollment Option (PSEO) student and earned his basic welding certificate in December 2011.
Brett tackled the bike rack with support from his mentor, Brian Johnson of Clearwater.
“This became a project of untold hours,” said Brett’s mother, Brenda Schulze. She said both Brett and Johnson put in a lot of time. They did a lot of the work at Johnson’s shop, Paradise Found Forge.
Johnson is a retired pipefitter and a hobby blacksmith.
“It was a good learning experience for him,” Johnson said. “I tried to guide him. He has the eye of an artist. I want very much to see him take that as far as he can.”
Johnson said the bike rack was a learning experience for him, too. The paper clips made from 1-inch rebar were the hardest part, he said.
Johnson is a member of the Central Minnesota Blacksmiths and has enjoyed being mentored by others in the past. Now he said he’s at the age where it’s time to give back a little.
Working with Brett and his family throughout the project was a positive experience, he said. He described Brett as very, very gifted.
“I hope I live long enough to see some of the successes that I think he is going to have as a metal worker and as a citizen,” Johnson said.
While working with Johnson, Brett said he learned how to make a pointed end on a pipe (like he did with the pencils on the bike rack), silver soldering, using a lathe, improvising when lacking equipment, patience and much more.
Brett said the project was time-consuming and he was worried he wouldn’t get it finished. He is relieved the bike rack is done and pleased with the way it turned out.
“I am also glad to have left a mark on my school that may last for years after I’ve graduated,” he said.
Every senior at Spectrum must complete a senior project.
Linette Holum, who works in admissions and guidance support at Spectrum, said the senior projects are one of the things she loves about the school.
“It is a lifelong lesson, having to do a senior project,” she said. “It just prepares them for so many different things.”
Brett plans to pursue a career in the arts, possibly focusing on drawing or working with metal.
He would prefer a career with mostly hands-on work and has already started a blacksmithing business called Brett’s Blacksmithing & Metalwork.
“I can only work on my business part time, but maybe someday I’ll be able to survive on it full time,” he said.
After graduating in 2013, he will attend Rivendell Sanctuary, an honors program of San Diego Christian College, in Bloomington, Minn., for his first two years of college.
“I will see where that leads me,” he said.