For the first time competing in the statewide Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, with 30 schools starting out and only 10 making the finals, two Crook County students placed. Shown here is one of the two, CCHS senior Paul Berglund. Greg Prewitt was not available at the time the photographer visited the high school.
>A pair of very sharp CCHS seniors place in this year's Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition ... the first time a local showing was made at the annual event
Once again, students from the Vale High School added another Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills winner's cup to the school's trophy case. And this year, for the first time, a team from Crook County High School entered the competition and placed in the top ten.
CCHS automotive instructor Casey Kump explained that the competition started with a written exam. Thirty Oregon schools took part at that level, but only about a third reached the present bench mark score and went on to compete with the hands-on portion. When the awards were handed out, two CCHS seniors, Greg Prewitt and Paul Berglund, were there.
The competition between schools from around the state begins with written tests and then moves on to the diagnostic and repair of a test vehicle in which eight 'bugs' have been planted. The students are given a maximum of 90 minutes to find the problems and fix them. Because the top finishing times are so close, once the students are finished judges painstakingly scrutinize all repairs before combining the scores with the written test results for the total score.
Kump said the problems the students faced could be found anywhere ... electrical to mechanical, from an unseen open wire, a burned out light bulb to a faulty spark-plug. In one case, even the diagnostic test equipment had something wrong with it and produced faulty information.
But the students all managed to come through. "The kids get pretty serious about it, and it is pretty stressful. But there is a lot of excitement," Kump said.
Each year, Ford offers one of their new cars for the competition. Kump said a lot credit for the local team should go to Shrum Ford. "They let us come out and work with the Shrum technicians on this year's car, a 2001 Mustang. That helped the boys a lot."
The state champion team will travel to Washington, D.C. in mid-June to compete in the National Finals. This year's state title marks the fourteenth for Vale. The school also has three national title to it credit.
Skills contest organizer, Ray Conklin of Clackamas Community College praised all the contestants, saying, "It doesn't matter if you finished first or tenth. Just being here in the finals makes you all winners."
Kump said this may be the first year for the local students but it won't be the last. He explained that he spent a lot of time watching how other teams worked out the problems ... and more importantly, the kinds of problems the judges came up with. CCHS students will be better prepared next year, he said.