“Start your engines, if you can,” are familiar words to 2008 West Iredell High School graduates Josh Archambault and Cody Johnson. Led by instructor Dwayne Troutman, the students won the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills state finals in automotive technology on April 29. They represented North Carolina at the national finals in Dearborn, Mich., on June 24.
The 50 two-person teams at Ford World Headquarters competed for the opportunity to be recognized as the best automotive technology team in the 59th annual national competition. They also vied for $7 million in scholarships and an opportunity to shadow the Roush Fenway Racing pit crew at their shop in Concord.
“This competition fulfills two important functions – allowing students to gain experience and earn education scholarships and also to recognize prospective career options,” Steve DeAngelis, Global Manager of Technical Support Operations at Ford, said in a press release. “The Auto Skills sponsors offer these contestants and other talented young people unparalleled opportunities to enter a range of automotive professions, including Ford's dealer network.”
Archambault and Johnson placed 14th in the competition. “They made one mistake and were issued a demerit,” said Troutman.
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To prepare the students, Troutman “bugged” cars loaned to the center by two dealerships. The students had to solve the problems and make proper repairs. They have specific roles. Johnson repairs lights and accessories, while Archambault works on the engine. “First I look at fuses, then I look at other things,” said Archambault.
Troutman described the scenario the team faced in national competition. They were allotted 90 minutes to diagnose and repair a “bugged” vehicle. Once they had completed the repairs, the team would drive the car to a point of no return. At this juncture, the students would decide if they had made all necessary repairs. They would continue to repair the vehicle or send it to the judges.
Archambault described his preparation for the national contest as “an exciting experience I'll never forget. I'm just as nervous as I was for state competition,” he said.
Students must take a written test in state and national competitions. To qualify for state competition, 10 teams are selected to vie for the championship based on their written test scores.
Prior to entering the hands-on test at the national finals, team members completed their written tests on Monday. They competed in the timed race to diagnose a “bugged” 2008 Ford Focus the next day.
“Ford and AAA always put on a good competition,” said Troutman. “We had a good team. They worked well and we're proud of them,” he said.
Archambault and Johnson left Iredell County on June 27, to attend WyoTech, an automotive technology school, in Blairsville, Pa. Each student received scholarship offers valued at $60,000 for winning the state competition. They accepted scholarships to attend WyoTech and will graduate in March 2009.