of the fifty, two-person teams gathered in Dearborn, Michigan
on June 24-26 represents the cream of the crop of auto tech students
in their state. They are the champions out of 7,504 high school
juniors and seniors who enrolled in the automobile technician
competition last fall.
The 100 best high school automotive technicians from each state
go head to head in the national finals of the FORD/AAA
Student Auto Skills competition. The contestants compete for over
$6 million in scholarships and prizes.
Stanley, the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Manager said "While
each team has a story to tell, several teams are competing under
unusual or challenging circumstances this year. For example two
teams include father-son competitors, and one of the fathers is
a former national contestant. To the best of our knowledge this
has never happened in previous years of the competition. Both
members of the Mississippi team, who lost homes to Hurricane Katrina
in 2005, overcame the effects of the storm to capture their state
crown. The Maryland team is competing in memory of a beloved instructor
who passed away earlier this year. The 2006 champion school from
Texas is back for a second year. And schools from Oregon and Hawaii
are breaking records by sending teams to the National Finals once
Competitor's Father is Team Instructor
Obispo High School seniors Daniel Lehmkuhl and Austin Castro
will compete in Dearborn under the watchful eye of Jeff Lehmkuhl,
Daniel's father and their auto tech instructor.
plan automotive careers, working with cars. Daniel, who has
been hanging out at the school auto tech shop since he was 5
or 6, will attend the University of Nebraska this fall, majoring
in mechanical engineering. Austin hopes to attend Universal
logged 80 hours preparing for the state Ford/AAA competition.
For the nationals, the young men have been solving simulated
problems, reviewing numerous text books, and pouring over a
Ford Fusion donated by a local American
has taken teams to finals three previous times in seventeen
years of teaching, having his son part of the 2007 team makes
this trip "pretty cool, pretty exciting."
Student Following in Instructor Father's Footsteps
As did his
father, Earl Smith, in 1979, Campbell County High School Senior
David Smith will be competing in the national auto skills finals.
But unlike his dad, who also is the instructor for the Gillette,
WY, students, David and teammate Cory Moore are in the competition
to win, not just have a good time.
continue his auto education this fall, studying diesel and auto
for an automotive career, while David is determining his next
steps. But both young men have been practicing diligently for
the face-off in Dearborn.
who is "proud as punch to be taking my son," says
David and Cory "want to win for their school and for Wyoming."
Campbell County has not sent a team to the competition in 18
Victims Who Lost Their Mississippi Homes Hope for the Best in
American Hurricane Katrina roared through Mississippi in August
2005, it wiped out the homes of both members of the Hancock
County Vo-Tech Center team, William Rickey Alley and Cody Necaise.
family rode out the hurricane with friends some distance from
their house, which was inundated by water. Later they evacuated
to a small town in Alabama, but after his grandmother's water-logged
house was restored, Rickey returned to Bay St. Louis to live
with her and complete his classes at the Vo-Tech Center.
also destroyed the Necaise residence in Kiln, and they lived
with friends until the family and volunteers rehabilitated the
house. In the fall of 2006, Cody, a junior, enrolled in auto
tech class. During this year's state competition, he was paired
with Rickey, a senior. Rickey says he is a little more mechanically
inclined while Cody is more electronically oriented, and both
agree they make a good team. They plan to advance their educations
and pursue careers as automotive technicians.
Center has sent a team to the nationals only once before, in
2000, also under the tutelage of Instructor Tony Adams. Adams
looks forward to a few days with his students in Dearborn, far
away from Hancock County, which still is recovering from Katrina.
Students Hope to Win in Memory of a Beloved Instructor
Johnson and Scott Mason won the right to represent Maryland
in the finals despite the loss of their instructor, Mike Keefer,
who had taught automotive technology at Carroll County Career
& Tech Center in Westminster for more than 25 years.
competed in the state finals with a replacement auto instructor,
John Samuels, shortly after Keefer succumbed to colon cancer.
In Dearborn they will be led by still another instructor, Jeffrey
Leister, as Samuels will be with his wife awaiting the birth
of their first child, due June 26th.
be the first time the school has sent a team to the finals.
Coaching the students for the finals has taken Leister away
from his hobby of tin smithing.
and Scott plan to enter the Ford
Motor Company ASSET program to train for auto tech careers.
The competition will be a bittersweet event for the students,
but they hope to bring the trophy back in Keefer's memory.
National Winner Texas School Back for a Second Try
School, whose team won the 2006 finals on the Texas school's
first entry in the competition, is fielding another team this
year -- Junior Michael Rhodes and Senior Nicholas Finney.
Michael Schmidt, who taught last year's national winners, feels
great about the 2007 team, saying, "They've been working
really hard" to prepare.
backgrounds should serve them in good stead. Mike repairs dirt
track race cars and plans to train as a master technician after
graduating next year, while Nick will attend Texas A&M this
fall as a computer science major.
School Returns for the 20th Year
the 20th year that Vale, OR, is sending a team to the national
finals under the guidance of Instructor Merle Saunders. His
teams always finish well, and he's expecting great results from
this year's team, Chase Williams and Levi Tolman, both of whom
graduated just a few days after winning the state competition.
weeks preparing for the written portion of the exam, which counts
for 40 percent of the total score at the nationals, they began
pouring over a Ford car to prepare for the hands-on portion
of the competition. Levi plans to train for a career in automotive
or diesel and Chase is still mulling his choices.
says how they fare in Dearborn may help their decision-making.
"It's a lot of work preparing for the finals," Saunders
says, but also "a great experience" for the competitors.
School Sending a Team for the 14th Year
School teams have been representing Hawaii at the national finals
for 14 years, almost annually since 1992.
met teammates Dustin Texeira and Brandon Sato as freshmen, auto
tech instructor Neill Nakamura said, "They were not your
typical 'automotive' types. I figured they would go off to college
to earn an engineering degree or something along those lines."
Dustin and Brandon, both graduating seniors, plan to further
their education at schools offering advanced automotive technology
programs and are considering careers in the field. Instructor
Neil Nakamura says the students "are among the most dedicated
and responsible leaders in our [high school] auto shop."
auto finals consist of two parts, a written exam on June 25
and an exciting hands-on competition on Tuesday, June 26, which
begins at 9:15 on the front lawn of Ford World Headquarters.
During this timed challenge, each team races to find and correctly
repair every deliberately placed "bug" in their assigned
Ford Fusion, then drive across the finish line. The purpose
of the competition is to encourage young men and women to embark
on automotive careers. Trained automotive technicians are in
high demand. For more information, visit http://www.autoskills.com.
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