The two-person team of Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey from Vale High School in Vale, OR, have earned the title of "America’s Best Student Auto Technicians," as national champions of the 62nd annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition. The competition was held yesterday at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, MI.
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 Merle Saunders (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.
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. The team earned a "perfect truck" score by flawlessly repairing all 14 "bugs" without any demerits for poor workmanship. The team shut the hood of their "perfect truck" at 58 minutes and six seconds working on the bugs.
The top 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 winning teams (in order) are:
1. Oregon: Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey, Vale High School, Vale, OR, Instructor Merle Saunders
2. Hawaii: Jimbo Paranada and Marc Paguirigan, Maui High School, Kahului, HI, Instructor Shannon Rowe
3. Minnesota: Kyle McDonough and Micah Solem, Faribault High School, Faribault, MN, Instructor Mark Lessman
4. Kansas: John Munger and Felix Torres, Newton High School, Newton, KS, Instructor Robert Ziegler
5. Arizona: Cody La Pedus and Wayne Siddle, Flowing Wells High School, Tucson, AZ, Instructor Jerrad McMurrich
6. Alabama: Christopher Breeden and Patrick Proffitt, Winfield City High School, Winfield, AL, Instructor Mike Henderson
7. Wisconsin: Mitchell Sommerfeldt and Ryan Stauske, Grafton High School, Grafton, WI, Instructor Carl Hader
8. Louisiana: Casey Higginbotham and Mitchell Odom, Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center, Walker, LA, Instructor Van Guarino
9. California: Samuel Castenholz and Michael Mullen, San Luis Obispo High School, San Luis Obispo, CA, Instructor Jeffrey Lehmkuhl
10. Michigan: Connor Jennings and Derek Reyst, Saline High School, Saline, MI, Instructor Timothy Timoszyk
In addition to thousands of dollars in scholarships, the winning team will job shadow Roush Fenway Racing’s NASCAR Nationwide Series No. 6 Ford team leading up to and during the Subway Jalapeno 250 on July 1 at Daytona International Speedway. The students also will have the opportunity to interact at the track with the car’s driver and 2010 Nationwide Series Rookie of the year, Ricky Stenhouse, Jr., who is serving as the national spokesperson for the Ford/AAA Auto Skills program this year.