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Finish Line: Oregon Students Win 62nd Annual Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition

Team Earns Thousands in Scholarships and Title of ‘Nation’s Best Student Auto Technicians’

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DEARBORN, MI – The two-person team of Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey from Vale High School in Vale, OR, earned the title of “America’s Best Student Auto Technicians,” as national champions of the 62nd annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, held in June at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, MI.

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The competition, which offers nearly $12 million in scholarships to its competitors, gives the nation’s best high school automotive technology students the opportunity to showcase their automotive problem-solving capabilities by resolving “real world” repair challenges in a timed, head-to-head match-up of top teams representing each of the 50 states.

Vale High School is no stranger to the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition. Instructor (no relation to Matthew), who just retired at the end of the school year, has led students to the National Finals 24 times and took home the championship trophy today for his fifth time, more than any other automotive technology instructor.

His first national win was in 1992, and one of the students who earned the title was Matthew Saunders’ older brother Greg.
 
the oregon team earned a “perfect truck” score by flawlessly repairing all 14 “bugs” without any demerits for poor workmanship. Battling Bugs
At the National Finals, teams from all 50 states had their automotive skills and knowledge put to the test with a 100-question written exam and a timed event in which they raced against the clock and each other to identify glitches and repair 14 deliberately installed “bugs” in identical 2011 Ford F-150 XLT trucks.

The bugs ranged from a “no-start” situation to a broken horn and hood latch.
The team from Oregon won the national championship by earning the competition’s best combined written and hands-on score.

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The Oregon team earned a “perfect truck” score by flawlessly repairing all 14 “bugs” without any demerits for poor workmanship. The team hoisted the championship trophy after shutting the hood of their “perfect truck” at 58 minutes and six seconds.

In addition to thousands of dollars in scholarships, the winning team got to job shadow Roush Fenway Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide Series No. 6 Ford team leading up to and during the Subway Jalapeño 250 held July 1 at Daytona International Speedway.

The students also got to interact at-track with the car’s driver and 2010 Nationwide Series Rookie of the year, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who served as the national spokesperson for the Ford/AAA Auto Skills program this year.

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AAA vice president Marshall L. Doney said his organization is grateful that it gets to work with the program that promotes the new wave of future automotive technicians.

“In an economy in which drivers are looking to extend the lives of their cars through maintenance and repair, the need for skilled automotive technicians continues to be strong. We saw 100 of the very best and brightest young automotive technicians in action today,” Doney said.

“For more than six decades, the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition has helped fund advanced automotive education for promising students and continues to prepare these future professionals for careers in the automotive industry.”

Student competitors had to solve vehicle bugs that ranged from a “no start” situation to a broken horn and hood latch.Steve DeAngelis, Ford’s global manager of technical support operations, also commented on the importance of the contest.

“The automotive technicians of tomorrow must be well-educated and highly-skilled to meet the current and future technological advances in automotive technology,” DeAngelis said.

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“The people at Ford are committed to training and retaining the best technicians in the industry, which is why we are so proud of our continued involvement in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, which invests in our highly-skilled technicians of tomorrow.”

A pool of nearly 10,000 junior and senior automotive technology students started the Auto Skills journey to the National Finals with an online exam in March. The highest-scorers advanced to their states’ hands-on competition, with the top teams from each state getting the opportunity to battle in the National Finals.

Top-10 Teams
The 10 teams received full and partial scholarships from some of the leading automotive technology institutions in the
country, including Lincoln College of Technology, Universal Technical Institute, University of Northwestern Ohio,
Ohio Technical College and WyoTech. The teams that placed in the Top 10 are:

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Oregon: Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey, Vale High School, Vale, OR, instructor Merle Saunders;

Hawaii: Jimbo Paranada and Marc Paguirigan, Maui High School, Kahului, HI, instructor Shannon Rowe;

Minnesota: Kyle McDonough and Micah Solem, Faribault High School, Faribault, MN, instructor Mark Lessman;

Kansas: John Munger and Felix Torres, Newton High School, Newton, KS, instructor Robert Ziegler;

Arizona: Cody La Pedus and Wayne Siddle, Flowing Wells High School, Tucson, AZ, instructor Jerrad McMurrich;

Alabama: Christopher Breeden and Patrick Proffitt, Winfield City High School, Winfield, AL, instructor Mike Henderson;

Wisconsin: Mitchell Sommerfeldt and Ryan Stauske, Grafton High School, Grafton, WI, instructor Carl Hader;

Louisiana: Casey Higginbotham and Mitchell Odom, Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center, Walker, LA,
instructor Van Guarino;

California: Samuel Castenholz and Michael Mullen, San Luis Obispo High School, San Luis Obispo, CA, instructor Jeffrey Lehmkuhl; and

Michigan: Connor Jennings and Derek Reyst, Saline High School, Saline, MI, instructor Timothy Timoszyk.

Do you have an outstanding student or a group of students that needs to be recognized for an automotive-related academic achievement?  E-mail us at [email protected]

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