In eight years of having students compete at the Ford AAA Student Auto Skills Competition, Cade Baligad has never experienced the problem his students faced this year.
After fixing the vast majority of the intentionally placed bugs in the car, including the ones which prevented the car from running, the car would still not start.
“At the end of the competition we had five of the top West Coast Ford technicians over trying to figure out why the car still did not start,” said the Douglas High School automotive teacher. “Forty-five minutes after the contest ended and everyone was at the luncheon we, alongside the Ford techs, had the car started. The problem was caused by an unintentional bug resulting in a bad connection between the powertrain control module and the battery junction box.”
Andrew Galloway and Zachary Moehle placed fifth in the hands-on automotive competition after placing second on a statewide written exam.
“When there’s 17 schools across the state it’s a big deal. Also, we have a two-year program where a lot of other schools have a four-year program,” Baligad said. “I’m extremely proud of them. They by far exceeded any standards a teacher could have set for them.”
The competition took place at John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Sparks on May 9.
The Douglas team was given a 2013 Ford Focus and 90 minutes to diagnose and fix the bugs.
They replaced the rear blinker and running light, replaced the transmission shift indicator and various fuses, and fixed the hood and trunk release mechanisms.
“It was fun overall. It was a great experience I thought,” 17-year-old Galloway said. “How you act in certain situations shows your character. We handled it well and weren’t jerks when it had an additional bug.”
Galloway drives a 1987 Camaro and said he is no stranger to troubleshooting car problems. He enjoyed working alongside the Ford technicians and learning from them.
“It felt pretty cool because as soon as they got the car they were doing the same things we were doing,” he said.
Moehle, 16, said he has been interested in cars since middle school.
“It’s really cool to start with a car that doesn’t run, fix it, and be able to drive away,” he said. “It’s a big sense of accomplishment.”
Since the reason the car wouldn’t start had nothing to do with the students’ skills, the judges gave them a waiver on having to drive the car to the judging station.
“They judged it as if we drove in. When they called fifth, we were pretty excited we placed that high up,” Moehle said. “The competition was really cool. I learned to hold your head up. We worked until the very end.”
Galloway and Moehle each took home $3,000 in scholarships from Ohio Technical, Lincoln Technical, and Universal Technical Institute.