High School Students to Compete in State Auto-Skills Competition

Published 04.04.2008

School of Transportation & Natural Resources Technologies News

The state's top 20 high school automotive students will gather at Pennsylvania College of Technology next month for the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition to determine who will advance to the national finals this summer.

The college will host the hands-on finale of Pennsylvania's annual competition outside its Parkes Automotive Technology Center on May 15, when the 10 two-member teams of juniors and seniors will test their automotive knowledge and technical prowess and perhaps obtain the keys to high-demand careers in the automotive-repair industry.

"This is the first time in recent history that a Pennsylvania public college has been the host of the Ford/AAA contest. We consider it an honor to be asked and will endeavor to make this a memorable event for the participants," said Colin W. Williamson, dean of transportation technology at Penn College. "The automotive industry is on the leading edge of technology, and competitive events that foster the career and highlight the complex nature of today's vehicles help to inform the public as to the skill and education that is needed today for tomorrow's workforce."

Each team will be afforded 90 minutes to correctly diagnose and fix "bugs" on identical, brand-new Ford vehicles problems that will be uniformly installed by Christopher H. Van Stavoren, an assistant professor of automotive technology in the college's Ford ASSET associate-degree major. The intentional malfunctions could be anywhere in the vehicle, including the electrical, starting, ignition, charging and emission-control systems, or even in the auto body itself.

After troubleshooting and repairing every bug, teammates will signal their completion by closing the hood, and then must take the vehicle (and a competition team judge) on a test drive.

All 20 students will receive some form of scholarships and other prizes, and the top team will represent Pennsylvania in the national finals at Ford Motor Co. World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., on June 24. The first-place team will challenge students from 49 other states in a written exam and another hands-on competition at the national level.

Participating teams and their schools are James Turner and Kelly Giltinan, Warren County Career Center; Eric Tangert and Justin Roye, Lancaster County Career & Technology Center; Jordan Reitars and Theodore Kovatch, and Michael Runiewicz and Scott Worsham, all of Lehigh Career & Technical Institute; Michael Simko and Dustin Siduh, Central Westmoreland Career & Technology Center; Chris Smith and Williams Hayes, Penn Hills Senior High School; Leroy Stinsman and Joseph Piquet, Columbia-Montour Area Vocational-Technical School; Cody Gilbert and Clayton Peterman, Erie County Technical School; Cory Zeigler and Christopher Coburn, Dauphin County Technical School; and Dennis Bamford and Steve Schariest, Wallenpaupack Area High School.

The competition enables many of its participants to embark on promising careers in the automotive-repair industry with scholarships provided to top technical schools, including Penn College, home to one of the longest-running continuous automotive programs in the country. Demand for well-trained technicians is high: The U.S. Department of Labor expects the need for qualified technicians to grow 14 percent through the year 2016, accounting for 110,000 new jobs.

"Ford and AAA recognize there is a critical shortage of automotive technicians," said Charles G. Frey, director of automotive specialties for AAA North Penn. "Today's automotive technician must be computer-literate and understand electronics, as well as have a basic fundamental knowledge of how automobiles are made and function, i.e., brakes, transmissions, engine, just to name a few. The Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition is designed to create an interest in a highly satisfying profession."

To qualify for state competition, each student was required to complete an online exam a modified version of the one professional automotive technicians take that was administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education in February.

This was the second year that the qualifying exam was conducted on the Internet, enabling 8,076 students nationwide to compete for a spot in their states' auto-skills competition. The new format follows the professional technical certification and training programs of Automotive Service Excellence and automotive manufacturers, who are using Internet-based distance learning and assessment programs as alternatives to off-site training and testing.

The national and statewide competitions are organized with the support of Ford personnel, local automotive instructors and AAA's Approved Auto Repair program, a public service that AAA performs to identify quality repair facilities throughout the country.

For more information about the Ford ASSET emphasis or any of the majors in Penn College's School of Transportation Technology, visit online or call (570) 327-4516. For more about the college, visit on the Web , e-mail or call toll-free (800) 367-9222.