Two Juneau-Douglas High School students placed third in a recent state automotive repair contest.
Seniors T.J. Mason and Jason Sims might have done even better in the Ford Motor Co./American Automobile Association-sponsored contest at the University of Alaska Anchorage campus April 25 if their computer-testing device hadn't failed.
Juneau was among three teams, of the eight participating, to get their 2003 Mercury Mountaineer SUVs running after troubleshooting bugs placed in the vehicles by judges. Students had 90 minutes to find the problems and fix them.
Students from the Hutchison Career Center in Anchorage won the contest, and a North Pole team was second.
"We were really hyped up," Sims said.
"I was shaking pretty bad," Mason added.
After the breakdown of the scanning tool that plugs into the vehicle's computer, the Juneau students diagnosed the problems "the old-fashioned way," Mason said.
"By listening to clicks," Sims said.
Bugs included a bad power control module, which is the computer for the engine and transmission, and a rear windshield washer disabled by glue.
Students qualified for the contest by scoring well on a 50-question written test of what the Automotive Society of Excellence would expect certified mechanics to know.
Mason and Sims prepared for the hands-on contest by working on a Mountaineer donated for a week by Evergreen Motors. Auto shop teacher Steve Squires unplugged parts or put bad parts in to give the students experience in troubleshooting.
The Juneau students won $1,000 scholarships to an automotive school in Denver and an automotive program at UAA, as well as tools worth $250, and, Mason said, "a bunch of hats and T-shirts."
The contest is a "motivator," Squires said. "It actually gets some of them to study for the written test."
Practicing the troubleshooting "teaches them how to work together," he said. "They try to break up their tasks as far as troubleshooting, so they're as efficient as possible."