California Students Wins Auto Repair Contest

By: Mike Bartley

To attract high school students to pursue a career in the auto industry, Ford and the American Automobile Association (AAA) teamed up to stage a contest to find out the best student high school students in auto repair. Called the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, the event crowned two graduates of the San Luis Obispo High School in California as the savviest auto technicians of all the contestants.

Fifty teams participated in the national finals from fifty states of the country. The final test was held at the Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. Coming out on top is the pair of Austin Castro and Daniel Lehmkuhl.

The pair was coached by Jeff Lehmkuhl, Daniel's father. For months, the pair underwent training and preparation for the final event. The effort they have put into the preparation paid off as they took home thousands of dollars in prize as well as scholarships to prominent auto technology colleges in the country. The total amount of prizes given away by Ford and AAA reached more than $6 million.

"Daniel and Austin today proved to be the best of the best high school automotive technicians in the United States," said Allan Stanley, the manager of Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills. "These auto-savvy teens typify the determination and work ethic of all 100 finalists. It's essential to the motoring public that the automotive industry attract such driven and dedicated young men and women to keep America's vehicles operating safely and trouble free."

Taking second place was the tandem of Alex Dobroy and Zachary Hastings, seniors at the Saline High School in Saline, Michigan. Third place went to the duo of Eric Hess and Christopher Wu of Doherty High School in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Second to tenth place finishers were also given scholarships to different colleges in the country offering auto technology courses. These scholarships is hoped to spark interest on pursuing auto technology courses among high school students across the country.

According to the organizers of the contest, the 50 teams which were involved in the final outing were the selected few who topped their state finals. About 7,500 high school students entered the competition.

The 100 finalist underwent two tests - the first one is a written exam which will be 40 percent of the overall score. After the written exam, the students were given the necessary tools and gathered at the front lawn of the Ford World Headquarters to participate in the final test.

The finalists were assigned with their own Ford Fusion which has been "bugged" so that it will not start. The mechanical problems induced into the vehicles are the same to assure fairness. The teams are given 90 minutes to repair their Fusion which is a stock car meaning it does not have aftermarket parts like exhaust parts integrated into it.

The tandem of Castro and Lehmkuhl needed only 49 minutes and six seconds to find out all the mechanical problems in the Fusion and fix them. After crossing the finish line, judges made sure that they have eliminated and taken care of all the "bugs". They were announced the winner after the overall score was tallied and judges affirmed that they have fixed the Fusion properly. The win of the pair also marked the first time that a father-son team has won the competition.

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