Three local high schools sending teams to automotive competition

Teens from four area high schools are heading to Indianapolis today to compete in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Contest. The teams are checking in today and the state contest will begin at 9:00 a.m. Friday.

Leighton Hochgesand (left) and Brad Schwinghammer work on diagnosing the bugged Ford Fusion at the Southridge Vocational Arts building. They will be joining teams from Pike Central and Heritage Hills in competing at the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Contest.

Only ten teams throughout the state qualified to compete at the State Competition. Southridge, Heritage Hills, and Pike Central qualified for three of the ten spots. Those teams consist of students from Jasper HS, Southridge HS, Pike Central HS and Heritage Hills HS.

To qualify for the competition the Automotive Technology students took a written Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) exam in February. A cutoff score is determined for the qualifiers and then the top two scores from each class constitute the team that will compete. Of over 1200 students that took the test six qualifiers came from the Patoka Valley Vocational Coop administered by Glenn Weil which includes the three schools sending teams.

Southridge is sending Southridge senior Brad Schwinghammer and Jasper senior Leighton Hochgesang. Pike Central is sending Pike senior Ross D’Esposito and Jasper Senior Cody Lynch. Heritage Hills is sending seniors Jeremiah Foertsch and Josh Puertzer. Students from other area schools without Automotive Technology courses travel to these schools to take part in the programs.

Southridge Automotive Technology teacher Chris Satterfield has sent students to the competition nine times in the past ten years. He attributes the success of the program at Southridge, Heritage Hills and Pike Central to the curriculum they teach. It is approved and administered by the National Automotive Technicians Education Foundation (NATEF) and all three local high schools use the curriculum.

Carl Hall teaches Automotive Technology at Heritage Hills and Buddy Lee teaches at Pike Central.

Hall stated these three schools almost always have teams in the competition. Although the teams have yet to take home the first place prize they have come in second and third place several times.

During the competition the ten two person teams will have to diagnose and fix problems with a 2012 Ford Fusion. After learning they had qualified for the competition about two weeks ago, Southridge and Pike Central were furnished brand new 2012 Fusions from Ruxer Ford Lincoln in Jasper to use to prepare for the competition. Heritage Hills received theirs from Sternberg Ford in Dale.

Ruxer Ford Lincoln President Doug Abbett stated they want to support the students due to the demand for quality vehicle mechanics. “I am interested in the names of the students,” he said. “The competition is good as it allows the students to show their automotive expertise. There is a stigma of mechanics being grease monkeys but everything now on these vehicles is run by a computer. We have computer experts now rather than mechanics. For young people today it’s second nature with the computers and the telephones they use every day.”

During the competition the teams have 90 minutes to diagnose problems with the vehicle. The teams will provide their own tools but they are given a list strict list of tools they will be able to bring. The school that properly repairs the intentionally bugged vehicle with the highest quality repair resulting in the least amount of demerits in the shortest time wins first place.

The team will move on to the nationals but will also receive a full scholarship from their choice of these schools: Lincoln College of Technology- Nashville Auto/Diesel College, Universal Technical Institute, University of Northwest Ohio, Ohio Tech, and Parkland College.

There are 90 schools eligible for the competition throughout the state. The other state qualifiers are: Hoosier Hills Career Center from Bloomington; Elkhart Area Career Center (two teams); Ben Davis High School (two teams); Northview High School from Brazil; and South Adams High School.

To prepare his students for the competition Satterfield has been bugging the Ford Fusion and then the two students attempt to diagnose the problem. “The first time we (Hochgesang and Schwinghammer) tried to figure out what he (Satterfield) had done,” Hochgesang said, “we ran out of time before we figured it out. He does different things all the time, yesterday put a golf tee in an evac hose.”

Hochgesang and Schwinghammer and the other teams have been practicing since they found out they had qualified. In addition to the hands-on diagnosis of the booby-trapped vehicles, the students have been studying service manuals. The teams have access to the service manuals on cd provided by Ford and the goal is to learn the vehicle inside and out.

The two came back to Southridge last night to practice more and they feel good about their chances. “There will be some anxiety when we get started but we work well together and think we can do well.” Hochgesang said.

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  1. So… Does that mean the other local H.S. don't try to excel in this area or did they try out for the competition.

    1. Students from Dubois County attend Southridge, Pike Central, and Heritage Hills for their automotive technology courses. Jasper High School, North East Dubois, and Forest Park do not have automotive technology courses.

  2. Forest Park students were sent to Heratige Hills in 2008. I was one of them. Eric Kern (Heratige Hills) and I placed second in the state in this contest.

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