Oregon students Win 62nd annual Ford/AAA auto skills competition

Jan. 1, 2020
The two-person team of Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey from Vale High School in Vale, Ore., earned the title of "America's Best Student Auto Technicians," as national champions of the 62nd annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, at Ford Wor
The two-person team of Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey from Vale High School in Vale, Ore., earned the title of "America's Best Student Auto Technicians," as national champions of the 62nd annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.

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.

"In an economy in which drivers are looking to extend the lives of their cars through maintenance and repair, the need for skilled automotive technicians continues to be strong. We saw 100 of the very best and brightest young automotive technicians in action today. For more than six decades, the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition has helped fund advanced automotive education for promising students and continues to prepare these future professionals for careers in the automotive industry," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA Vice President, Automotive.

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.

"The automotive technicians of tomorrow must be well-educated and highly skilled to meet the current and future technological advances in automotive technology," said Steve DeAngelis, Ford's Global Manager of Technical Support Operations. "The people at Ford are committed to training and retaining the best technicians in the industry, which is why we are so proud of our continued involvement in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, which invests in our highly skilled technicians of tomorrow."

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 Oregon team earned a perfect truck score by flawlessly repairing all 14 "bugs" without any demerits for poor workmanship. The team hoisted the championship trophy after shutting the hood of their perfect truck at 58 minutes and six seconds.

The 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.

Matthew Saunders and Drew Torrey
Vale High School, Vale, Ore.
Instructor: Merle Saunders

Jimbo Paranada and Marc Paguirigan
Maui High School, Kahului, Hawaii
Instructor: Shannon Rowe

Kyle McDonough and Micah Solem
Faribault High School, Faribault, Minn.
Instructor: Mark Lessman

John Munger and Felix Torres
Newton High School
Newton, Kan.
Instructor: Robert Ziegler

Cody La Pedus and Wayne Siddle
Flowing Wells High School, Tucson, Ariz.
Instructor: Jerrad McMurrich

Christopher Breeden and Patrick Proffitt
Winfield City High School, Winfield, Ala.
Instructor: Mike Henderson

Mitchell Sommerfeldt and Ryan Stauske
Grafton High School, Grafton, Wis.
Instructor: Carl Hader

Casey Higginbotham and Mitchell Odom
Livingston Parish Literacy & Technology Center, Walker, La.
Instructor: Van Guarino

Samuel Castenholz and Michael Mullen
San Luis Obispo High School, San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Instructor: Jeffrey Lehmkuhl

Connor Jennings and Derek Reyst
Saline High School, Saline, Mich.
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-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.

A pool of nearly 10,000 junior and senior automotive technology students started the journey to the National Finals with an online exam in March. The highest-scorers advanced to their states' hands-on competition, with the top teams from each state competing in the National Finals.

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