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San Luis Obispo Teens Place Ninth in Ford/AAA Auto Skills National Finals

(DEARBORN, MI, June 14, 2011) – Two students from San Luis Obispo took ninth place at the 2011 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals this morning.  The competition, sponsored by Ford Motor Company and AAA, is designed to find the future stars of the automotive industry.  The competition gives auto tech students the opportunity to showcase their automotive problem-solving capabilities by resolving “real world” vehicle repair challenges in a timed match-up of top teams representing the 50 states.
Representing California, San Luis Obispo High seniors Samuel Castenholz, 18, and Michael Mullen, 18, took 71 minutes and 50 seconds to repair their bugged Ford F-150 XLT Super Cab truck at Ford Motor Company headquarters in Dearborn. They were supervised by San Luis Obispo High Industrial Tech Instructor Jeff Lehmkuhl and accompanied to the competition by the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Rick Lalor.  Castenholz and Mullen graduate from San Luis Obispo High School on Friday.
SLO High Ford AAA Contestants
More than 10,000 high school juniors and seniors competed in this year’s competition with a record-high $12 million in scholarships offered.  The ninth-place San Luis Obispo High team received thousands of dollars in scholarships for each student – a $6,500 scholarship per student to the University of Northwestern Ohio and a $5,000 scholarship per student to Lincoln Educational Services.  And as one of the top-10 finishing schools, San Luis Obispo High received an engine from Ford for their automotive technology program to use in training.  The student pair also received a trophy for their high school.
“Samuel and Michael are pleased with their performance and I’m very proud of each of them and the work they completed today,” said Jeff Lehmkuhl.  “Our students communicated well with each other, accurately fixed nearly all the problems with the truck, and overall had a good run.  
“We want to thank the Perry Ford dealership in San Luis Obispo for the training vehicle they provided the student team to practice on,” said Lehmkuhl. “We very much appreciate the support of the dealership and the support of the owner.”
The top five finishers in today’s national finals were: Oregon (with a perfectly repaired truck), Hawaii (perfect truck) Minnesota (perfect truck) Kansas, and Arizona.   The Hawaii, Oregon and Minnesota student teams all submitted “perfect trucks” to judges which contained no repair work demerits.  But Oregon’s fastest hands-on finish of 58 minutes and six seconds pushed them over the top to win first place in the competition. 
The competition is geared toward students looking to jumpstart their careers in the automotive industry and is especially relevant for today’s struggling economy, as car owners are putting more money into repair and maintenance as a way of avoiding the big-ticket purchase of a new car. The U.S. Dept. of Labor reports that this trend, as well as advancements in automotive technology, means an increase in the demand for repair work and a rise in job opportunities for those automotive technicians who complete postsecondary education—something the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition helps its competitors pursue by offering millions of dollars in scholarships.
Find today’s Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals updates and photographs on Facebook at and also at
High resolution photos of the top-10 teams with their trophies and action photos from today’s competition will be made available to download at Official team photos for all competing teams also are available in high resolution format on
Today marked the 62nd annual competition which began in 1949. This year, AAA marks its 27th year with the competition, serving as a co-sponsor since 1984. Ford Motor Company celebrates its 17th year involved in the competition.
In May, the San Luis Obispo High team earned the California state competition by achieving the highest score among the 20 two-student teams competing across California.  The San Luis Obispo students each won scholarships, tools and prizes for finishing on top in the California competition.
In previous years Lehmkuhl has taken San Luis Obispo High student teams to the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Championship where they finished first (2007), second, fourth, and 20th
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The Automobile Club of Southern California is a member club affiliated with the American Automobile Association (AAA) national federation and serves members in the following California counties: Inyo, Imperial, Kern, Los Angeles, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Tulare, and Ventura.