(DEARBORN, June 26, 2007) — Two students from San Luis Obispo, Calif., beat students from 49 other states to win the 2007 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Championship today. The competition, sponsored by Ford Motor Co. and AAA, is designed to find the most talented young auto technicians in the U.S.
San Luis Obispo High 2007 graduates Daniel Lehmkuhl and Austin Castro took just 49 minutes and 6 seconds to repair their bugged Ford Fusion at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan. They were coached by San Luis Obispo High Industrial Tech Instructor Jeff Lehmkuhl, also Daniel?s father, and accompanied to the contest by the Auto Club?s Motor Sports Manager Rick Lalor. The California team was one of eight teams that perfectly repaired the deliberately bugged cars. They also took a written exam which was part of their final score.
"We're really pleased," said Jeff Lehmkuhl. "We went to make California proud and we're pretty happy now. We were sweating it out when the kids took about 10 extra minutes to fix a couple of bad window switches, but the higher written scores on the exam carried us to the top."
When asked if the win was that much sweeter because he was coaching his son, Lehmkuhl, 44, replied, "I'm thrilled. Daniel's been helping me in the auto shop at the high school since he was about 5 years old. And this is also a huge victory for Austin as well. He'll get a full scholarship to attend a technical institute or college."
Each member of the first team receives numerous scholarships and awards from today?s championship, including a $2,500 general education scholarship from Ford Motor Co. and AAA; full tuition scholarship to the University of Northwestern Ohio; full tuition scholarship to the Lincoln College of Technology; full tuition scholarship to Universal Technical Institute; full tuition scholarship to Ohio Technical College and a school trophy; and an opportunity to earn-as-they-learn at a Ford-Lincoln-Mercury dealership.
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.
"This win really puts our program on the map nationally," said Jeff Lehmkuhl. "I hope that this win will attract more interest from students, and speaking as a teacher, point them in a direction that's positive and into a field that's rewarding, needs good people and also pays well."
As vehicles become more advanced, Ford and AAA have partnered to assure that the new generation of automotive technicians is well educated to service the public?s motoring needs. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the auto industry will have an average of 34,000 job openings per year through 2014, based on growth and net replacement needs. More than 7,500 students from all 50 states vied for a chance to be in the final national competition.
"For Daniel and Austin today is the result of months of hard work and determination," said Lalor. "It's important that the automotive industry attract talented and driven young men and women to the field to keep the motoring public safe in their automobiles."
In May, the San Luis Obispo High team earned the California state competition by achieving the highest score among the 10 two-student teams at Irwindale Speedway, as well as beating the scores of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California. The San Luis Obispo students each won multiple college scholarships, tools and a powertrain package for finishing on top in the California competition.
Lehmkuhl has taken San Luis Obispo High student teams to the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Championship in previous years where they finished 2nd, 4th, and 20th. His 2007 team logged 80 hours preparing for their state competition and simulated and corrected vehicle problems, reviewed numerous text books and pored over a donated vehicle to prepare for the national championship.
The top five finishers in today's national competition were: California, Michigan, Colorado, No. Carolina, and Virginia.
VNR and b-roll of the competition will be available on:
June 26: 3-3:15 PM ET ? Galaxy 26, Transponder 17 C-Band, Downlink Frequency 4040 Vertical.
June 27: 1:30-1:45 PM ET ? Galaxy 26, Transponder 11, C-Band, Downlink Frequency 3920 Vertical.