By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — Students from all 50 states ascended upon Ford World Headquarters for the 2015 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Championship June 8 and 9.
One hundred students competed in teams of two and an instructor to test their automotive skills and knowledge.
Students were required to take a timed written exam June 8 and participate in a timed hands-on event June 9.
Also on June 8, students were able to inspect their Mustang, become familiar with the vehicle, and sign off that it was in good condition before a glitch or bug was placed.
The teams had 1 hour and 30 minutes to work together and repair deliberately-installed bugs in identical 2015 Ford Mustang Fastbacks with 3.7L V6 engines.
The competition began at 8 a.m. the following day when students inspected their Mustang and their tools and equipment.
Teams were judged by their combined written score and hands-on score. The hands-on judging included how well repairs were made, safety and if any equipment was damaged. Each issue found resulted in a demerit on time.
Ford has been involved in the competition for 21 years and Ford’s manager of Technical Support Operations, Steve DeAngelis, said it serves as a way to introduce students to the world of Ford.
“This event is important because it allows students to understand the job opportunities they have with car dealerships in the future,” he said. “I hope they go on to purse a career in the automotive repair, preferably with Ford or Lincoln, of course.”
DeAngelis also said the competition builds the confidence of students by gaining knowledge and experience needed to work in the field.
The road for the 50 teams began in January when 12,000 high school juniors and seniors took an online exam testing their automotive technology knowledge.
In April and May the top 10 teams from the written exam competed in a state championship and for a spot in the national championship.
Students in state finals also fixed repairs in bugged 2015 Ford Fiesta SE vehicles in a hands-on contest. The winners of the state competitions qualified for the nationals.
The state and national competitions awarded $12 million to students who participated.
Port Huron residents Jacob Catanzaro, 17, and Jason Foster, 17, represented Michigan from Port Huron High School and St. Clair County Career Technical Center.
“I always had a love for cars growing up,” Catanzaro said. “This competition seemed like such a cool and great opportunity.”
His teammate agreed.
“Everyone at our school entered because we all enjoy working on cars,” Foster said. “Making it all the way to the national championship and coming to Ford was exciting for us.”
After the competition was completed, teams and their families headed inside for the award ceremony.
The top 10 teams were announced and were invited on stage to collect their trophies and smile for the cameras.
The top team was awarded the Ford Genuine Service Trophy for completing their repairs with the most accuracy and best time in addition to scholarships, tools, prizes and customized software.
Morgan White and Jay Saunders from Oregon took home the top prize which included a week long job shadow experience with NASCAR Driver Ryan Blaney and the Wood Brothers Racing team leading up to and during the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona this July.
Oregon team instructor Drew Barnes also won the AAA Quality Automotive Teacher Award for the highest written exam team score.
Rounding out the top 10 were Alaska in second, North Carolina third, Hawaii fourth, Virginia fifth, California sixth, Florida seventh, Pennsylvania eighth, Massachusetts ninth and Idaho 10th.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)