Tomorrow’s Technician and B’laster are once again looking for instructors who “think outside of the toolbox” with the second-annual “B’laster Instructor of the Year” program. Our September Finalist shares how he integrates business practices, technology, and auto competitions to keep his students motivated and driven to succeed.
Words by Adam Arndt
My first job was with a family friend, who owned a custom automotive shop. I fell in love with working with my hands, seeing something come together to make the most beautiful automobiles. I started my first business while still in high school, fixing cars as a mobile mechanic, which branched into many great adventures in my life. With the local high school dropping trade classes, the need for skilled tradespeople grew fast. I decided that I needed to go get an official education, and start teaching vocational education, to prove to students that trades are an amazing – and a life-long – career path.
When I was hired to teach in Utah, I took with me all the things I learned from scouting, business ownership and life lessons from others. I knew I wanted to run the high school shop like a real shop. In other words, I set up an internship/job shadow program with many local shops to introduce students to the automotive industry. This has been a great experience for my students to network with the local industry, and to expand their career portfolio before leaving high school.
We completely redesigned the shop teaching methods here at Bonneville High School. This was done to closely resemble the layout of what students will find in the industry. As a prior shop owner, I know what success looked like and what it took to get there. I started doing rotations, as the students call them. I also gave leadership responsibility to students in the shop, a tool room and a variety of projects.
I would teach the diagnostic knowledge and skills in two or three days, in six to seven different topic areas. I would also film these demos for absent students, and for use as resource material for students to access at any time. Over the next 6-7 days students would rotate to different “bugged” cars to diagnose and repair. During the repair, just like a real shop, if the students get stuck on the project, they have to communicate with each other for help, just like techs in the industry. If the students are still stuck, then they can ask the shop foreman for tips.
If still no luck, then the students can ask the shop manager (Teacher). This allows them the opportunity to model a real automotive shop.
We’ve also included various technologies and methods to help students who learn in various ways, from the filming of the demo to Chromebooks for each student. Here at Bonneville, we have a teaching demo station that has an 80” touch screen TV, that connects wirelessly to a GoPro for students to get a better view of the parts and method of repairs. QR codes are also being utilized in the classroom. We place QR codes on the car next to the repair the student is doing and that links them to the repair history and to the videos of that vehicle’s demos.
I also use Google Classroom as a Learning Management System to have students turn in their RO and worksheets. This has made the shop almost 100% paper free.
In order to help the students stay motivated in the shop, the students also participate in various competitions like soapbox racing, automotive skills competitions, engine competitions, and much more each year.
For soapbox racing, the build consists of math, physics, drafting and welding, and automotive students design and build cars following the regulations. The local competition is against Utah State University’s Engineering Department. After the races, the students will take these soapbox cars, redesign and rebuild them to hold an engine and drivetrain for drag racing, to compete against other high schools that are a part of the Spanish Fork Welding Expo. Student teams also build cyclekarts, drift trikes, and Baja buggies, which all lead to hands-on design and fabrication skills. Cyclekarts are scaled, 1900s open wheel race cars.
My students must research the history of the car they like, and the technology of that day that would make that car better than the rest on the field. Afterwards, the students who completed the report on the car’s history, then start designing a scale version of it following the rules for a division of cyclekart. Last year, my student’s design was the 1910 Buick Bug, as seen on Jay Leno’s Garage.
The students also compete in Hot Rodders of Tomorrow’s engine building competitions, where students take a Chevy 350 long block, tear it down, and rebuild it in under 32 minutes to factory specs. All other parts come off, and no use of power tools is allowed. Bonneville High School won 1st place in Utah last school year, with a time of 26 minutes flat. These students now have the chance to show off their skills at the national competition at SEMA in Las Vegas.
The students also compete in other local automotive competitions, such as Weber State’s Automotive Program Contest, and run a large, ever-growing SkillsUSA chapter here at Bonneville. When I started at Bonneville, the chapter only had three members. Just last year, my students were able to recruit 40 students into the club, through various community events such as car smashes, go-kart races and cars shows.
I have enjoyed every bit of my time as an instructor, from the great days of student self-discovery, to the hard days of total chaos in the shop.
Bio: Adam Arndt has been the automotive instructor at Bonneville High School in Ogden, Utah, for the past eight years. He earned an associate degree in automotive at Modesto Junior College and a bachelor’s degree at Weber State University. Arndt is also the coordinator of the State Teachers Association for automotive teachers in Utah, and he co-produces an online monthly Professional Learning Community for all the automotive teachers in the region to help other teachers produce a guaranteed and viable curriculum for their programs.
For more information or to nominate an instructor for the B’laster Instructor of the Year program, visit TomorrowsTechnician.com/instructor-of-the-year.