The Ford and AAA Student Auto Skills Competition brings high school teams from all over the state to work on cars and possibly advance their careers.
“The students here are the best of the best in West Virginia. Through their high scores they have earned the right to be here to try to win scholarships and valuable prizes to help them in their endeavors to become an automotive technician,” said J.J. Miller, with AAA East Central.
The students were competing in the state championships on Thursday in Bridgeport, but there was a lot of work to be done before that.
“We start studying for it early in the year and start taking written tests, and then they take the top two out of your program. If you score high enough and make the top 10 in the state you get to come to the hands on competition,” explained Jim Andrews, a teacher at the Mid-Ohio Valley Technical Institute.
Schools prepare for the competition using hands-on learning.
“We end up working with local dealerships or rent-a-car companies to get a car so we can practice on the car. We spend as much time as we can practicing and going over situations and looking at the car,” Andrews said.
All the cars are provided by Hertz, and even though they only have a few hundred miles on them, they aren’t in mint condition.
“We have 10 identical cars with 10 identical bugs, which we call problems. These students have 90 minutes now from the start of the contest to figure out what those bugs are,” said Miller.
Once the teams think they have found all the bugs, they are driven to judging where they are scored on accuracy and workmanship.
Preston High School Teacher James Veltri said he has been bringing students to the competition for nine years because it opens up doors for the students.
“They all have the drive to succeed. There is a lot of scholarship money offered for this and some of the best schools around have reps here wanting to scoop them up and take them off to school. They have this whole competition set up where quality counts first not the time,” said Veltri.
More than $100,000 worth of scholarships were given away to the students from AAA.
Lincoln High School in Hamlin took home the top prize, they’ll go to Detroit to compete in the national competition.