Automotive technology competition spotlights state’s best student technicians
Despite cloudy skies and cool temperatures, twenty automotive technology students from around the state answered the call to “Gentlemen, start your engines, if you can!” as the Ford-AAA Student Auto Skills state competition took place on May 12 at the Newport on the Levee parking lot.
The ten, two-man teams had 90 minutes to “debug” the 2006 Ford Escapes donated for use, all of which had the same identical problems.
Starting the engines was just the beginning of the many minor imperfections planted in each vehicle; problems ranging from a check-engine light to faulty brake lights.
The team that spotted and corrected the most problems in the quickest time would prevail as the state winner and move on to the national competition to be held this June in Dearborn, Mich.
“Ford helps sponsor this contest in every state where the top four finishers get a scholarship to a Ford sponsored school,” said Jeff Hazel, a Ford field service engineer from the Chicago market. “It’s also a way to look for the best technicians we can find. That’s the bottom line. We want the best technicians available to work in our Ford-Lincoln dealerships.”
State auto technology students from secondary career and technical centers and programs first had to compete in regional hands-on competitions as well as taking written exams in an attempt to earn a trip to the state finals.
Each team was accompanied by its respective instructor, some coming to the event for the first time, while others were making repeat performances such as Meade Co. Area Technology Center’s (ATC) automotive technology instructor Donald Dix.
“The secondary programs around the state make a big difference for students getting into the auto-tech business. We teach the basics and our students have an advantage going into a postsecondary education or into the workforce,” said Dix. “This competition is a way for the students to show how good they are. I tell them to do their best and try to have a perfect car because that’s what it’s going to take to win.”
Steven Johnson, associate professor of automotive technology at Bluegrass Community and Technical College, has been affiliated with the competition for 18 years and sees the event as a way for students to further their education and pave the way for future job opportunities.
“There will be over $100,000 in scholarships given away today and that gives some of these students a chance to go on to the next level that might not have had the opportunity, otherwise,” said Johnson. “I’ve found it very unique that there are an amazing number of people in higher management positions in the automotive industry that got their start through this competition. This is one of the premier events as far as automotive technology is concerned. For the auto industry, this brings the cream of the crop together.”
Once the competition ended, students and instructors gathered inside a local restaurant to share their stories, dine on pizza and await the presentation of trophies.
Sandra Guile, AAA public relations coordinator in Cincinnati made the announcement of the winners and said the competition benefits students and motorists.
“We are helping to give the kids an opportunity to pursue a career that is both fulfilling and enriching,” said Guile. “AAA has always been an advocate for the motorist and the safety of the motorist. This competition is a way to help the automotive industry provide high quality standards and safety for motorists by helping these students get the education they need to repair cars and make sure they’re running properly.”
The top five finishers were recognized during the awards presentation with first place honors going to the team from the Barren Co. ATC.
Students Ray Seabolt and Chad Mathews, along with their instructor Ray Hammer, accepted the trophy, along with prizes and scholarships for Seabolt and Mathews.
“These students worked extremely hard from the beginning of school just to qualify for the chance to make it to the hands-on competition,” said Hammer. “They made great decisions during the competition and that is what earned them a victory.”
“I can’t believe we won. It feels good to know that all of our hard work has paid off,” said Seabolt.
“Winning the Ford/AAA competition makes me feel like I am one of the best student technicians in the state,” said Mathews.
He’s right. The two now join an elite group of the newest and brightest automotive technicians in the country, not only on their way to a bigger and brighter competition, but on their way to a bigger and brighter future as well.
The other high schools and technical schools that participated in the competition included Allen Co., Meade Co. ATC (2nd place), two teams from Eastside Technical Center (5th place for Instructor Robert Riddles team) in Lexington, Garrard Co. ATC, Wayne Co. ATC, Lake Cumberland ATC in Russell Co. (4th place), Hughes Jones/Harrodsburg ATC and Southern High School (3rd place) in Louisville.
The Kentucky Education Cabinet coordinates learning programs from P-16, and manages and supports training and employment functions in the Department for Workforce Investment. For more information about our programs, visit www.educationcabinet.ky.gov or www.workforce.ky.gov, or call 502-564-6606, ext. 177.