Two Juneau-Douglas High School seniors will be looking for trouble in Anchorage later this week - under the hood.
Chad Thomas and Justin Rasmussen leave Thursday to participate in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Contest, where they will put their auto troubleshooting knowledge to the test against nine other high school teams from across the state.
JDHS auto shop teacher Steve Squires said the contest gives students an arena to show off their know-how.
"It tries to (encourage) kids going into automotive technology as a career," he said. "It's going out to have fun, but there's also a lot of things at stake."
Squires said successful participants can receive thousands of dollars in scholarships from technical schools.
All contest participants are given the same vehicle to study; this year it's a 2002 Ford Escape. Evergreen Ford donated the use of a brand-new Escape for two weeks so Thomas and Rasmussen could practice their troubleshooting skills.
At the competition, each team will be given a "customer complaint" describing the same performance problem. The speed and accuracy in diagnosing the problem determines a team's score.
Typical contest problems include a disengaged vacuum hose or restricted air flow to the engine, Squires said.
The winning state team will go on to national competition in Washington, D.C. Juneau students won state three years ago.
The Escape has been a bit of a change-of-pace for the students, who are used to vehicles with fewer electronics and more accumulated grime.
"I drive an old (1968) pickup, which is a lot different," Thomas said. "These new ones have all the computers in them."
"New ones are cleaner," Rasmussen said. "You don't get all greasy working on them."
Squires said it's been a learning experience since the Escape has some features - such as a new type of ignition system - that "we've never seen yet."
Squires said Evergreen and other local businesses have been very supportive of the program because of the need for qualified, quality auto technicians in Juneau.
"That's one of the reasons we get such great cooperation around town," he said. "They want to see kids go into the field."
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.