Time, technology and teamwork combined Tuesday at Ford world headquarters when 10 two-person teams competed for the title of the best student auto technicians in the U.S.
When it was all over, Justin Bublitz and Colt Morris — from Grafton High School in Grafton, Wis. — walked away with scholarships and trophies after winning the 65th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills finals.
Their task was simple, but daunting: Race the clock, plus nine other teams, to correctly diagnose deliberately installed problems in identical 2014 Ford Fusion SEs and then provide a fix.
“We had a great turnout again this year,” said Jack Coleman, director of automobile programs for AAA National.
“The contest started in February with 13,000 students taking an online qualifying exam. From there we selected 10 two-person teams from each state, and finally we ended up in Dearborn with one team from each of the 50 states.”
The competitors — which this year included two female students, one representing Indiana and the other New Mexico — had 90 minutes to diagnose and repair their car.
“This isn’t just a greasy-rag thing anymore,” Coleman said.
“These students have to know about technology as well as mechanical and electrical engineering.”
The team from Oxford High School had the best Michigan showing at 26th.
This year’s competition provided $11 million in scholarships to competitors.
The first-place team will have its choice of one of the following: a $25,000 scholarship per student to Automotive Technical Institute; a $25,000 scholarship to the University of Northwestern Ohio; a $25,000 scholarship per student to Ohio Technical College; a $5,000 scholarship per student to Lincoln Educational Services; or a $3,000 per student scholarship to Ranken Technical College.
Additionally, Snap-On Tools awarded more than $20,000 in prizes during the competition while NAPA Auto Parts gave away more than $13,5000 in tools to the top three finishing teams.
In addition to scholarship dollars, the National Champions will earn a week-long job shadowing experience with 2011 Daytona 500 Champion Trevor Bayne and the Wood Brothers Racing team leading up to and during the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona this July.