Valley mechanics third in state

Excelling in auto shop used to mean a student was known as a grease monkey who probably spent more time under a car than being academic.

But a good part of the reason why two Douglas High School students earned scholarships in the Nevada Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Contest was because they hit the books.

Junior Chris King and senior Brad Colescott each took home $8,500 in scholarships for placing third in the competition designed to find the most talented young auto technicians and to encourage them to consider careers in the automotive industry.

"Right off the bat, these guys were in the top 10 before they got their hands on a car," said Auto Tech II teacher Cade Baligad about the team being one of the best in the state.

"Then they were the guys to get their car started faster than the first place team," Baligad said.

The state championship was determined by the combination of a written qualifying exam and the team's ability to repair a deliberately disabled 2006 Ford Escape during a hands-on competition at John Ascuaga's Nugget in Sparks on May 11-12.

The Ford Escape had a total of eight problems to be solved and all the teams had identical cars with identical problems. Each car had a note from a "customer" describing the cars' problems. They had an hour and a half to find out what was wrong.

"They rigged the Escapes with all the same bugs - they all had the same problems," said Colescott, 17. He and King were the first in the competition to correct the problem to get the car to start.

The first place team from Churchill County High School in Fallon went on to win the competition for correcting all eight problems first.

Besides scholarships, King and Colescott won a trophy, shirts, hats, tools - including an $80 screwdriver - and duffel bags to hold all the other stuff they brought home from the competition.

Colescott said the scholarship money makes him consider his choice to further his education.

"Since I got the scholarship, I'm thinking more seriously about going to college," he said. "I always thought to try automotive and now it's more of a possibility."

As a junior King still has another year at Douglas to enter competitions and more chances to earn scholarships.

"Now I have way too many options," he said about receiving the scholarship.

"But next year I'll intern in the Auto Tech II class," said King, 16.

Colescott said they were helped by service manager Schell Tingley and drivability technician Money Tessier from Capital Ford in Carson City to prepare for the competition.

"Monty and Schell let us look at a 2006 Escape," said Colescott. "They let us bug it and look at it with the scanning machine."

"Monty was probably the biggest help and let us use his tools," said King.

While some schools got to have the cars for a week, the Douglas team were allowed to work with the Ford for two and an half hours.

King said while most new cars are equipped with electronic "brains," he likes to work on cars without electronics.

"These days you can't just be a mechanic, you have to be a technician," he said.

Colescott said one advantage they had at the contest was that they work as a team in class.

"We usually work together with every project or with the teacher with problems," said Colescott.

"(Baligad) lets us work on his truck," said King.

"Even on my brakes," said Baligad.


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