Two WI students claim top prize at National Ford/AAA skills competition

Students from across the country gathered in Dearborn, Mich., to match wits and workmanship in a race against the clock – and one another – for the right to claim a National Championship and be named the top young automotive minds in America at the 65th annual Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals at Ford World Headquarters.

When the dust settled, the duo of Justin Bublitz and Colt Morris from Grafton High School in Grafton, Wis. claimed the crown of America's top auto technicians, registering the day's top score under the tutelage of instructor Carl Hader.

With over $10 million dollars in scholarship prizes in the balance, state winners gathered today in Dearborn to solve "real world" automotive challenges – both digital and mechanical – in a timed competition. A quick mind and steady hands were required as top auto students worked with wrenches and computers alike.   With automotive sales up across the board, and new and innovative technologies becoming a bigger part of the manufacturing process, the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition is shaping the next generation of auto technicians who will work on these vehicles.

Beginning with a shotgun start, the student competitors (all paired in two-person teams) raced to their vehicles to review a work order that challenged them to diagnose and repair a number of purposefully placed "bugs" ranging from digital to mechanical and electrical. Once the repairs were completed, it was a race to shut the hood, fire up the engine and steer the vehicle across the finish line – where a scrutinizing judging team awaited.

To earn the National Title, Bublitz and Morris earned a "perfect car" score by flawlessly repairing all the "bugs" without any demerits. Students are graded on quality repair workmanship and safety. Combined with the results of a written examination taken on June 9, their score allowed them to hoist the trophy as national champions. 

The top-10 teams in the 2014 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills National Finals were:


1. Grafton High School (Grafton, Wis.)

Students: Justin Bublitz and Colt Morris

Instructor: Carl Hader


2. Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center (Choctaw, Okla.)

Students: Andrew Chapman and William Eubanks

Instructor: Jim LaFevers


3. Portland Arts and Technology High School (Portland, Maine)

Students: David Dutton and Kolbe Clifford

Instructor: John Carmichael


4. Vale High School (Vale, Ore.)

Students: Kade Phillips and Tyrel Raven

Instructor: Drew Barnes


5. Maui High School (Kahului, Hawaii)

Students: Chayce Mimura and Devin Vea

Instructor: Neill Nakamura


6. Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical High School (Bourne, Mass.)

Students: Adam Bancroft and Kyle Saintonge

Instructor: Dennis Theohasidis


7. Burrillville High School (Harrisville, R.I.)

Students: Harry Moran and Nick Pennine

Instructor: Tim Durigan


8. West Delaware High School (Manchester, Iowa)

Students: Glenn Comley and Nathan Gudenkauf

Instructor: Jason Guyer


9. Newton High School (Newton, Kan.)

Students: Derek Voth and Carson Roach

Instructor: Bob Ziegler


10. Arbor View High School (Las Vegas, Nev.)

Students: Zach Taylor and Mason Hoopes

Instructor: Tom Garrett Jr.


In addition to scholarships, the National Champion Wisconsin team will enjoy an immersive, weeklong job shadow experience with 2011 Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne and his Wood Brothers Racing team, as they prepare the No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion car for the Coke Zero 400 in Daytona Beach, Fla. – the famous site of Bayne's spectacular win at age 20.

"For today's automotive technicians, being able to diagnose and repair a computer-related malfunction is just as critical as fixing mechanical failures," said Marshall L. Doney, AAA Chief Operating Officer. "As a generation that has grown up with digital technology, this year's students are uniquely qualified to lead the auto industry forward and you saw their brilliance on display today in a high-octane atmosphere matching the nation's best talent from coast-to-coast."

"The automotive technicians of tomorrow must be well-educated and highly-skilled to meet the current and future technological advances in automotive technology," said Steve DeAngelis, Ford's Manager of Technical Support Operations. "The people at Ford are committed to training and retaining the best technicians in the industry, which is why we are so proud of our continued involvement in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, which invests in our highly-skilled technicians of tomorrow."