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Santa Barbara/Lompoc Team Wins State Ford/AAA Auto Skills Championship

2015 CA Auto Skills winners
California State Champions Angel Torralba and Juan Zamora with their instructor, Michael Johnson.

Two students from the Santa Barbara County Regional Occupational Program-Lompoc High beat 36 other students to win the California 2015 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition today.  Arvin High finished second, Ramona High came in third and San Luis Obispo High finished fourth in the standings.  The competition, sponsored by Ford Motor Company and the Automobile Club of Southern California, is designed to find the most talented young auto technicians in the U.S.


The competition was held at the Wally Parks NHRA Museum at the Fairplex in Pomona. Santa Barbara ROP-Lompoc High earned the state championship by achieving the highest overall score among the 10 two-student teams at the museum, as well as beating scores of 10 two-student teams who were competing simultaneously in Northern California. The Golden State is the only one with two same-day competitions. 


This year the competition also had one female student competitor – Trinaday Shelton from Ramona High (fifth place.) Ramona High sent two teams that finished in the top five in the Southern California portion of the competition.


Winning students Angel Torralba and Juan Zamora completed the hands-on competition in 102 minutes and 12 seconds, finding and repairing nine out of 10 problems planted in the vehicle by judges.  The competition winners were determined by scores on an online qualifying exam and the team’s performance in the statewide hands-on under-the-hood competition to repair quickly and accurately deliberately disabled Ford vehicles.  The winning Santa Barbara County ROP-Lompoc High team instructor is Michael Johnson.


The students each won multiple college scholarships (worth nearly $50,000), including a $20,000 tuition scholarship to United Technical Institute, a $10,000 tuition scholarship to Ohio Technical College, a $10,000 tuition scholarship to Lincoln Technical College and a two-year, $3,000 tuition and books scholarship to one of 60 higher education schools participating in the Ford Motor Company’s Automotive Student Service Educational Training (ASSET) program.  They also are eligible to receive a $3,000 Ford Accelerated Credential Training (FACT) scholarship in conjunction with the UTI training program. 


The winning Santa Barbara County ROP-Lompoc High team instructor Johnson also received a trophy for the high school to display. 


“Angel and Juan repaired a Ford Fiesta today with 10 ‘bugs’ and made nine repairs accurately,” said Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition Committee Chairman and the Automobile Club of Southern California’s Automotive Specialist Avo Asdourian.  “The workmanship by the winning students today was very good and something they can continue to work on more before the national final next month.”


As statewide champion, the Santa Barbara County ROP team advances to the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals in Dearborn, MI in June, where $11 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. 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 funds and/or trained teachers.  At the same time, there are 254 million cars and trucks in operation in the U.S.  


Competition Results






1. Santa Barbara County ROP-Lompoc

Michael Johnson

Angel Torralba

Juan Zamora

2. Arvin

George White

Jorge Cross

Juan Zaragoza

3. Ramona

Mike Saavedra

Erick Levya

Isaac Medina

4. San Luis Obispo

Jeff Lehmkuhl

Ben Hurley

Brys Luther

5. Ramona

Robert Grace

Jonathan Mayeski

Trinady Shelton

6. San Marcos Sr.

Russell Granger

Luke Anderson

Kevin Gillett

7. Colton/Redlands/Yucaipa ROP

Will Bodnar

Erick Perea

Nichola Priyono

8. California (Whittier)

Bill Buttinelli

Taylor Chafins

Ricardo Cobar

9. Monte Vista 

Mike Fleming

Raul Barragan

Erik Palomares

10. El Camino 

Joshua Painowski

Shane Daniel

Raymon Groters

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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.