10/05/07 — Students compete at the fair's Auto Mechanics Vocational Competition

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Students compete at the fair's Auto Mechanics Vocational Competition

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 5, 2007 1:58 PM

Splash through a puddle with this brake rotor installed, and you might find yourself with a broken-down vehicle, 16-year-old Tyler Holmes said.

Students had the brake rotors in front of them at one station in the Auto Mechanics Vocational Competition at the Wayne Regional Agricultural Fair Wednesday night.

"If it (the rotor) gets hot, and you run through a water puddle, it'll warp out so bad, the brake pedal will go up and down because the rotor has been warped," Tyler said.

Students had 10 minutes to compete in three separate tests of automotive skills -- brakes, electronics and general auto mechanic safety questions.

Tyler, 16, a Southern Wayne High School junior, and his fellow competitor, Tyler Mooring, 17, a Charles B. Aycock High senior tested their rotors with a micrometer.

The micrometers showed that at least one of the rotors was "a few hundredths of an inch off," Tyler Mooring said.

That could lead to the warping on wet roads, "or just make a lot of noise," Mooring said.

At stake in the contest were small cash awards, oil changes and the chance to pick a work vehicle for the school's automotive program.

In individual competition, Holmes of Southern Wayne placed first, followed by Eastern Wayne Senior Brandon Bibeault, 18, and Edmond Miller, 17, a senior at Charles B. Aycock.

In schoolwide total competition, Eastern Wayne placed first, followed by Southern Wayne and Charles B. Aycock, in second and third place, respectively.

The competition -- sponsored by the fair, Chevy Cadillac of Goldsboro and Wayne Community College -- meant more than prizes and glory, however, organizers said.

Wayne Community College has sponsored the competition for about 20 years, college Automotive Department head Craig Foucht said.

Eastern Wayne automotive instructor Mike Brown said that automotive jobs won't be diminishing anytime soon.

"The modern automobile has more technology than the first space shuttle," Brown said. "You've got to have somebody to work on the cars. Hopefully these kids can go out there and make a living."

One former participant who is still following that path is Samantha Key, who placed fourth in the competition last year.

Her peers chided her "because the girl got the pink ribbon" she said with a smile.

This year, she helped score the competition.

"Eventually, I want to own my own shop, but I'll work in a dealership to begin with," Ms. Key said.

Others who participated said they had known cars were a possible career choice for some time.

For instance, Edmond Miller, 17, a Charles B. Aycock senior.

"My dad (Jerry Miller of the Pikeville area) has been a mechanic forever," Miller said, adding that he and his father had rebuilt a 1973 Chevrolet Impala.

Miller is exploring the possibility of being a physical therapist as well, he said, but cars just might be his future career path.

As far as his personal preference for cars, "the louder the better," he said. "I'm more into old school -- muscle cams, exhaust systems, carburetors."

And it seems the classic Chevy v. Ford battle among high school mechanics still lives on.

Holmes said he and automotive teachers Rudy West and Bob Warren often exchange banter about which American brand is better -- Holmes is a Ford man, he said, and one teacher is partial to Chevrolets.

Then, Holmes said he saw one of his teachers fixing a tire on the side of the road one afternoon.

"I will not let him live it down," he said.