Oregon Students Win Ford/AAA National Auto Repair Title

Washington, D.C. – 6/27/2005

Racing against the clock and against 49 other student teams from around the country, aspiring auto technicians Oliver Dalman, 19, and Matthew Whitaker, 18, of Vale High School in Vale, OR, needed only 36 minutes to fix their vehicle to win the 2005 FORD/AAA STUDENT AUTO SKILLS national finals this morning on the National Mall.

The pair, who spent months preparing for the competition with their instructor, Merle Saunders, took home nearly $124,000 in scholarships and prizes for their school. In total, Ford and AAA handed out over $5 million in prizes to the competition’s participants, which they hope will encourage students to pursue careers in the automotive field.

“Today, Oliver and Matthew earned the right to be called America’s top high school auto technician team,” said James Dunst, Auto Skills contest manager. “Their hard work and desire to be the best typify the can-do spirit of all of today’s participants. These are exactly the talented young people the auto industry needs to keep America’s vehicles operating safely and trouble-free.”

The Student Auto Skills competition is an annual event to determine the top high school auto technicians in the country. After completing a written exam that counted for 40 percent of their overall score, the 50 two-person teams — one team representing each state — gathered near the Lincoln Memorial at 9:00 a.m. for the hands-on portion, which counted for 60 percent.

At 9:15 a.m., with a starting call of, “Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines, if you can,” each team raced to a 2005 Ford Focus with the same mechanical problems. Once the hood was popped, they had 90 minutes to diagnose and fix any number of “bugs” in the starting, charging, ignition, cooling, electrical, lighting, braking, climate control and power train systems. The team from Oregon drove their car across the finish line, winning the contest.

“Millions of car owners depend on well-trained auto technicians to care for the maintenance and repair needs of their vehicles,” said John Nielsen, director of AAA’s Approved Auto Repair program. “Co-sponsoring the Auto Skills contest is one way AAA continues to make sure consumers can have complete confidence they and their vehicle will be properly cared for when visiting a AAA-inspected and approved repair facility.”

“Careers in automotive service have never been more attractive than they are now,” said Steve DeAngelis, Director, Service Engineering, Ford Customer Service Division. “Ford and its dealer network are offering these contestants and other young people unparalleled opportunities to become trained for a career that is high-tech, well-compensated field.

“Technician positions increasingly offer benefits such as insurance coverage, paid vacations, and retirement savings programs, and co-sponsoring the Auto Skills competition is one way Ford keeps attracting the best-of-the-best young technicians to its professional technician training programs, and to careers with our dealer network,” DeAngelis said.

Teams placing second through tenth in the Ford/AAA contest received scholarship awards scaled from $72,000 to $14,000. Second place went to Schuyler Toyama, 18, and Kameron Welsh, 17, of Maui High School in Kahului, HI. Tristan Klotz, 18, and Joseph Seamandel, 19, of Grafton High School in Grafton, WI, took third place.

And it’s not just high school students competing at today’s event. For the fifth year in a row, Ford certified Master Technicians competed in the Ford Ultimate Master Technician Challenge, held in conjunction with the competition.

# # #

Photos of top ten finishers can be viewed at the Student Auto Skills photo library

Find more information about the contest

B-roll footage is available at the following coordinates:

June 27, 2005, 2:30-3:00 PM EDT

C Band IA 6, Transponder 16

Downlink 2020H

June 28, 2005, 1:30-1:45 PM EDT

C Band IA 6, Transponder 16

Downlink 4020H

# # #

The top ten winners in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition were:

1st Place, OREGON, Vale High School

Student: Matthew Whitaker, 18

Student: Oliver Dalman, 19

Instructor: Merle Saunders

2nd Place, HAWAII, Maui High School

Student: Schuyler Toyama, 18

Student: Kameron Welsh, 17

Instructor: Dennis Ishii

3rd Place, WISCONSIN, Gafton High School

Student: Tristan Klotz, 18

Student: Joseph Seamandel, 19

Instructor: Carl Hader

4th Place, NEW HAMPSHIRE, Mascenic Automotive Care Center

Student: Austin Hills, 18

Student: Mike Traniello, 18

Instructor: Vincent Fittante

5th Place, MICHIGAN, Saline High School

Student: Justin Jedele, 18

Student: Ryan Szpara, 18

Instructor: Tim Timoszyk

6th Place, INDIANA, Pike Central High School

Student: Dustin Bolin, 18

Student: Shane Nance, 19

Instructor: Buddy Lee

7th Place, MINNESOTA, Faribault High School

Student: Ryan Pankratz, 18

Student: Ryan Prechel, 18

Instructor: Mark Lessman

8th Place, MAINE, Portland Arts & Tech High School

Student: Garrett Jordan, 17

Student: Braxton Penny, 18

Instructor: John Carmichael

9th Place, NEW YORK, Wayne Tech & Career Center

Student: David Castiglione, 18

Student: Anthony Hollebrandt, 17

Instructor: Chet Kuhn

10th Place, MASSACHUSETTS, South Shore VO Tech

Student: Gordon Sibbald, 18

Student: Ernest Stalker, 18

Instructor, David Haskins