The Woodward News

April 27, 2013

Local students earn automotive honors

Rowynn Ricks
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — Two Woodward High School seniors recently earned top 3 honors in a state automotive skills competition.

Blain Quinby and Michael Shepherd, representing High Plains Technology Center, won 2nd place in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills State Finals on Thursday in Okmulgee.  The 1st place team was from Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center in Choctaw and the 3rd place team was from Mid-America Technology Center in Wayne.

HPTC Automotive Instructor Vic Terbush said he has taken 5 or 6 different teams to the state contest over the years, but this year "was the highest we've ever scored."  He previously had a team of students earn 3rd place in the state finals in 1999.

Terbush said even making it to the state competition is an achievement as the students have to earn their spot by making top marks on a written exam.

This year he said "Some 398 students in Oklahoma took the test and only the top 20 scorers were there (at the state contest)."

The instructor said the exam featured 60 to 70 different questions to test the students' automotive knowledge, using questions similar to those used in the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) certification exams.

"ASE is the standard for certification for automotive technicians," he said.

The written test asks students about the different systems in a vehicle and how each operates, Terbush said.

For example, he said "they ask about the electronics, the fuel system and ignition system and how the car's computer relates all them together and makes the car run."

After doing well on the written test, Terbush said his students went on to compete in the hands-on state finals on Thursday at the Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in Okmulgee.

The students competed in teams of 2, with the top 10 teams "representing their schools in a race to correctly diagnose and repair intentionally installed 'bugs' on identical Ford vehicles. Each pair was judged on speed, accuracy and workmanship," according to a press release from AAA Oklahoma.

While he couldn't provide specific details about the types of problems that his students had to repair, Terbush said "there were just various bugs that kept the car from running or the lights from working."

He said Quinby and Shepherd had to run their own diagnostics to figure out what all the bugs were, then correct the problems so that the car would start and be able to drive across the finish line for final judging.

And they had to do it all within an hour and a half.

Out of the 10 teams competing, Terbush said "only 4 got their cars started and only 3 made it past the final judging."

"So it was pretty difficult to get the cars even started," he said.

The instructor said he is "real proud" of Quinby and Shepherd for doing so well at the state finals.

"They did real good," he said.  "They finished their car in less than an hour."

What made it even more impressive is that the students did it all on their own.

"The teachers don't get to help, we just have to sit back and watch," Terbush said.

And that is why he was so proud of Quinby and Shepherd.

"I didn't teach them what was wrong with the car, they were able to look for it and do diagnostics and check for problems themselves," he said.  "It makes you feel good knowing they can take what you've given them and put it to good use."

Terbush was also especially proud since the teens didn't get much time to practice for the competition.

He said he and his students learned that they had qualified for the contest at the end of March and between regular classes, had "only about a week of training just for this."

However, he said thanks to the local Ford dealership, they were able to make the most of their training time.  He explained that McKay Ford loaned his students a car to look over and practice on so they could become familiar with how its various systems operated.

Terbush said he believes it was a combination of that familiarity with the vehicle and their own passion for automobiles that helped Quinby and Shepherd do so well at the contest.

"What I've noticed about these 2 students is that they have a lot of interest away from school and have done a lot of studying on their own.  They just have a desire to learn it" he said, noting "both plan on working in the automotive trade in one way or another."

Terbush said he feels the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Contest provides some good preparation for those future careers.

"It's a contest today, but tomorrow it may be your car they're working on and you want it back quickly and running right," he said.  "They (Ford/AAA) want the students to learn how to give the car back to the customer with everything in the right place.  It helps with customer service later on."