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Mechanic Marcus won’t let ADHD hold him back

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Bright future: Marcus Pimentel is now studying for an associate’s degree to become a mechanical engineer. His love of engines comes from his dad, an automotive mechanic (Photograph by Nadia Hall)

Marcus Pimentel’s reference letters all carried the same message: passionate and talented with “superior intellectual ability”. Despite that, he struggled to maintain his focus in subjects that he had little interest in.

At 5, he learnt he had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The condition prevented him from thriving as the “very able, bright boy” he was. Until he found his outlet.

“Two-stroke engine performance. That’s my passion. That’s where all my motivation goes towards,” the 18-year-old told Lifestyle.

It has helped that his father, Frank Pimentel, is an automotive mechanic at Woodlands Garage. The teenager has worked there all summer.

“I was exposed to it every day. At 8, I would walk to my dad’s job after school and I would hang around there into the afternoon,” the Mount St Agnes graduate recalled.

“I’d be working and learning about all the pieces and parts. Slowly, my knowledge grew, but there was always the interest: how does this work? How does that work?

“Now I know how it works, but [I wonder], how can I make it better?”

A scholarship from the Learning Disabilities Association of Bermuda will help him pursue his dream of becoming a mechanical engineer. He started his associate’s degree at the Bermuda College this month.

The problem-solver said he liked the smaller engines for their versatility. The six bikes he owns range from a classic 1988 Peugeot 103 to a 2016 Yamaha.

At 13, he built a chainsaw-powered scooter after finding the blueprints in an old Popular Mechanics catalogue. The “simple” design incorporated a plywood base, steering from an old pedal bike and chainsaw motor. Mr Pimentel created his own braking system.

“It started out as a joke, but I pulled it off. Sadly, due to the elements of Bermuda it didn’t last long,” he said.

His love for engines is not the only thing he inherited from his father.

“Nine times out of ten they find it is hereditary. When I was diagnosed at 5, my dad was diagnosed [with Attention Deficit Disorder],” he said.

“As time has gone on, the knowledge around ADHD has improved greatly. When I was in primary school, it was a challenge, not only to me, but to teachers. As I got older, I learnt to adapt.

“I found that developing a good student-teacher relationship helped me the most. If I had new teachers, I would tell them to look at my file, so they can get a better understanding.

“At MSA, out of all the schools, understanding is an understatement. They went above and beyond for me. It was amazing.” Acute anxiety led to seizures and panic attacks in his high school years.

“I had a lot going on. I had just moved schools from Saltus to MSA,” he said. “For most people it’s the beginning of teenage years that the stress piles on — the demands of school and having to fit in — but for me it was a bit more than just that.

“Everything was going downhill, but then slowly things started to get better. I got a bit of help and then I found an outlet which, for me, was racing.

“That’s my advice to everybody. Find an outlet and run with it.”

He is a member of the Bermuda Classic Bike Club and Bermuda Motorcycle Racing Club. He calls his team High Anxiety Racing.

“Some people are afraid of heights. Some people are afraid of tough situations. For me, racing was an escape,” he said.

“My mom was worried that if I was at a high speed in a dangerous situation, my anxiety level would be high.

“Actually, the adrenalin rush eases it. Sometimes you have to find that outlet, whatever it is, and for me it’s racing.

“It’s natural medicine. If you can have fun, you’re not thinking negatively. It’s like a chain reaction.”

He is grateful to his teachers at MSA and said the school played a big part in his development.

“The good thing was MSA offered a couple of courses that were more hands-on,” he said. “They allowed me to do a special project, they offered a small engine repair course, they offered a basic electrical repair course, they started offering more and more things and it helped students like me.

“Sometimes the typical classroom setting is not for everybody. Some of us learn better with hands-on work.”

His “dream goal” is to develop changes in engines and get down to the “nitty gritty of engine science”.

As for racing, he would love to see the club grow.

His mother, Susana Pimentel, said: “As a family, we would like to thank LDAB for recognising students who often get pushed to the side when being considered for a scholarship because most scholarships focus on the academics rather than the whole person, their gift, their passion and their dreams for the future.”

Full throttle: Marcus Pimentel is a member of the Bermuda Classic Bike Club (Photograph by Nadia Hall)