Congratulations to the 2015 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National champions Morgan White and Jay Saunders and their instructor Drew Barnes from Vale High School in Vale, Oregon.
The Oregon team earned the title of “America’s Best Student Auto Technicians,” as national champions of the 66th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, held at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, MI.
The competition pits the best high school student teams from all 50 states in a race against the clock to solve real-world automotive challenges. Each two-person team received an identical 2015 Ford Mustang Fastback in which they were challenged to diagnose and fix a number of digital and mechanical “bugs.” Once repairs were completed, it was a race to close the hood, fire up the engine and drive the vehicle across the finish line, where a scrutinizing judging team awaited.
To earn the national title, White and Saunders earned a “perfect car” score by flawlessly repairing all the “bugs” without any demerits. Students are judged on quality repair workmanship and safety. Combined with the results of a written examination taken the previous day, their score allowed them to hoist the trophy as national champions.
The team from Vale has a winning tradition at the Oregon and national Auto Skills competitions. Vale has won the state competition 27 times, finished in second place twice and was third once. Vale has been to the Oregon Auto Skills competition 31 times since 1984, AAA’s first year of sponsoring the Auto Skills contest. In 2011 and 2013, the team from Vale won the national competition, and placed fifth in 2010. In 2011, the Vale team won nationals with instructor Merle Saunders, who retired that year after leading students to the national finals 24 times and taking home the championship trophy five times. Barnes is now in his fourth year as a Vale instructor and takes home his second national championship trophy. His team won nationals in 2013 and finished fourth last year.
The winning team represents a long-running family tradition of participation in the competition. Saunders is one of five Saunders sons to participate in the program; two of his brothers were crowned national champions in 1992 and 2011. White’s step-father, Randy Belnap, was a member of the 1992 national championship team.
“We’re so proud of the Vale team and their first-place finish in the national Auto Skills competition,” says David Bennett, AAA national competition manager. “Jay and Morgan are among the best and brightest students who’ll become the auto techs of the future.”
Second-place finishers were Cole Vinton and Andrew Risner from Alaska, while Graham Roten and Daniel Taylor from North Carolina finished in third. For pictures and videos, visit the Tomorrow’s Tech Facebook page.