Douglas auto tech students take third in Ford challenge

Two Douglas High School auto tech students put their long-acquired skills to the test and placed third in the Ford/AAA auto skills competition in Reno on May 15.

Junior Chris Fleischmann and senior Ryan Combs took home an impressive trophy after ousting seven other teams for Nevada's third-place spot.

"We worked on a 2009 Ford Focus," said Combs, who's been in teacher Cade Baligad's auto tech class for three years. "We had to troubleshoot it and figure out why it didn't start."

The students had 90 minutes to the fix the car. It took them just under four minutes to get the engine started.

"The starter relay was bad," said Combs. "We had to identify the bad part, then ask the judges for a good one and put it back in."

Baligad said his students have participated in the competition for five years, but that this year's was the most difficult.

"Out of the top 10 teams in the state, six teams didn't start their cars," he said. "It was a real-life experience. Stuff like that happens in shops on a regular basis."

The students said the hardest part was figuring out the car's electrical problems.

"We fixed the window switch pretty quickly, but we were looking in the wrong places for the brake lights," said Combs.

Nonetheless, the duo performed well enough to lock the third-place spot, each garnering $6,000 worth of scholarships to two different technical schools out of state.

But Fleischmann and Combs were still undecided about their future plans.

"I'm thinking of going straight into the workforce," Combs said. "I want to see if I can get a job with a dealership, start out low, then work my way up."

"This is more a hobby for me," said Fleischmann, who's been in auto tech for two years and owns five old cars. "My favorites are a '71 Ford Ranchero and a '51 Studebaker fire truck."

Even if the students decide not to attend technical school, they'll still have bragging rights from their hard-earned win.

"It feels pretty good," said Fleischmann.


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