(IRWINDALE, May 11, 2007) — Two students from San Luis Obispo High School in San Luis Obispo County beat a field of 38 other students to win the California 2007 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition today. The competition, sponsored by Ford and the Automobile Club of Southern California, is designed to find the most talented young auto technicians in the U.S.
San Luis Obispo High competed in the Southern California portion of the contest, held at Irwindale Speedway. It earned the state championship by achieving the highest score among the 10 two-student teams at Irwindale, as well as beating the score of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California.
San Luis Obispo High students Daniel Lehmkuhl , 17, and Austin Castro, 17, completed the Southern California hands-on competition in 38 minutes and 32 seconds, finding and repairing 9 out of 10 problems with the vehicle. They each won three college scholarships, including a $32,000 scholarship to United Technical Institute and a two-year, $3,000 scholarship to one of 60 higher education schools participating in the Ford Motor Co.’s ASSET (Automotive Student Service Educational Training) program. The winning San Luis Obispo High School team instructor is Jeff Lehmkuhl, who is also Daniel’s father. The pair also won two sets of tools from Snap-On and Matco and a Powertrain package for finishing on top.
“The car that Daniel and Austin repaired today only had one missed bug out of 10 repairs, meaning it was nearly perfect,” said Rick Lalor, event competition chairman and the Auto Club’s motor sports manager. “The pair is from a high school with a long tradition of first class teams who have competed on the national level and have demonstrated professional workmanship and high-tech knowledge needed to repair today’s vehicles.”
Ramona High’s team coached by Mike Saavedra finished second in the Southern California competition, while Morro Bay High took third place. Brandon Freeman 17, and Daryl Young, 18, made up the second place team. The Morro Bay High team of Edmund W. Thomson , 17, and John Walz, 17, were third. Their instructor is John Ruppert III .
he competition winners were determined by the combination of an online qualifying exam and the team’s performance in a hands-on competition to repair quickly and accurately a deliberately disabled 2007 Mercury Marquis.
As statewide champion, the San Luis Obispo High team advances to the national finals in Dearborn, MI next month where $6 million in scholarships and prizes will be distributed.
The Auto Club co-sponsors the annual competition to draw attention to the need to attract qualified students to high-paying automotive professions. Mechanics with two-year degrees will be able earn a starting salary of $40,000 annually, with salary growth up to $100,000 or more for master technicians.
Trained automotive technicians are among the most sought-after and highly paid professionals in today’s job market, but many high schools are reducing or eliminating automotive programs due to lack of funding and/or trained teachers. AAA sponsors the skills contest as part of its educational efforts to attract and train more young people to the automotive professions.