Illinois Students Claim Third Place of Top Auto Techs in Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition

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June 26, 2012
63rd annual auto technology showdown matches top high school student teams from all 50 states; nearly $12 million in scholarships is awarded to help refuel auto industry’s next generation of talent 

AURORA, Ill. (June 12, 2012) – In a face-to-face showdown of top student teams from all 50 states, the Kansas  team triumphed over the field to become known as the nation’s brightest young auto technology minds, as the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills concluded its 63rd year in thrilling fashion. 
Taking the crown as the “best of the best” was the two-student team from Newton, KS consisting of Bryce Banks and Jedediah Redger, as their Newton High School team recorded the day’s top score under the tutelage of instructor Cory Unruh.  Illinois students Ryan Orlando and Mark O’Hara from Willowbrook High School finished closely behind in third place.
With nearly $12 million dollars in scholarship prizes in the balance, state winners gathered today at the Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn to solve “real world” automotive challenges – both digital and mechanical – in a timed competition that required a quick mind and steady hands as top auto students worked with wrenches and computers alike.   The finish topped off a banner year for the competition, which set several milestones in 2012, including a record number of students, instructors and schools participating, as well as the highest number of female competitors in event history.
Beginning with a shotgun start, the student competitors (all paired in two-person teams) raced to their vehicles to review a work order that challenged them to diagnose and repair a number of purposefully placed “bugs” ranging from digital to mechanical and electrical. Once the repairs were completed, it was a race to shut the hood, fire up the engine and steer the vehicle across the finish line – where a scrutinizing judging team awaited.
To earn the National Title, Newton High School earned a “perfect car” score by flawlessly repairing all the “bugs” without any demerits. Combined with the results of an examination taken the day before, their score allowed them to hoist the trophy as national champions. 
The top-10 teams in the 2012 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals were:
[LISTED FROM #1-10, as such]
1 Kansas: (Bryce Banks and Jedediah Redger), Newton High School, Newton KS, Instructor Cory Unruh
2 Michigan: (Evan Fischbach and Thomas Michaluk) Saline High School, Saline, MIInstructor Timothy Timoszyk
3 Illinois: (Ryan Orlando and Mark O’Hara), Willowbrook High School, Villa Park, IL Instructor Christopher Field
4 Utah: (Jordan Kearns and Chandler Adkins), Riverton High School, Riverton, UT, Instructor Jay Hales
5 Oklahoma: Alexander Versteeg and Connor Hixenbaugh), Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center, Choctaw, OK, Instructor Jimmy Lafevers
6 Mississippi: (Daniel Williams and Hayden Beard), Clinton Vocational Center, Clinton, MS, Instructor Charlie Melton
7 New Mexico: (Konnor Davis and James Primmer), Career Enrichment Center, Albuquerque, NM, Instructor Mark Mulroy
8 Missouri: (Aaron Findling and Shelby Middleton), Moberly Area Technology Center, Moberly, MO, Instructor Charles Magruder 
9 New Hampshire: (Ben Noonan and Devon Wade), Mascenic Automotive Career Center, New Ipswich, NH, Instructor Vincent Fittante
10 Arizona: (Eric Stover and David Mora), Centennial High School, Peoria, AZ Instructor, Stephen Maish
In addition to scholarships, the National Champion Kansas team will enjoy an immersive, weeklong job shadow experience with 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and his Wood Brothers Racing team, as they prepare the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion car for the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Fla. – the famous site of Bayne’s spectacular win at age 20.
“For today’s automotive technicians, being able to diagnose and repair a computer-related malfunction is just as critical as fixing mechanical failures,” said Marshall L. Doney, AAA National Vice President, Automotive, Financial Services and e-Business. “As a generation that has grown up with digital technology, this year’s students are uniquely qualified to lead the auto industry forward in this country and you saw their brilliance on display today in a high-octane atmosphere matching the nation’s best talent from coast-to-coast.”
“The automotive technicians of tomorrow must be well-educated and highly-skilled to meet the current and future technological advances in automotive technology," said Steve DeAngelis, Ford’s Global Manager of Technical Support Operations. “The people at Ford are committed to training and retaining the best technicians in the industry, which is why we are so proud of our continued involvement in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, which invests in our highly-skilled technicians of tomorrow.”
About Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills
The Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills is a nationwide automotive technology competition that offers nearly $12 million in scholarships and prizes to high school juniors and seniors interested in pursuing careers as automotive service technicians.  More than 13,000 students from across the U.S. compete for the chance to represent their school and state in the National Finals. The competition tests students’ automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities. For additional information on the competition, visit

AAA Chicago is part of The Auto Club Group (ACG), the second largest AAA club in North America.  ACG and its affiliates provide membership, travel, insurance and financial services offerings to approximately 8.5 million members across 11 states and two U.S. territories, including Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, North Dakota, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands; most of Illinois, Minnesota and a portion of Indiana.  ACG belongs to the national AAA federation with nearly 53 million members in the United States and Canada. Its mission includes protecting and advancing freedom of mobility and improving traffic safety.

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