Monday, May 10th, 2010
By Janie Southard
Students' drive for perfection brings prize
ST. HENRY - Two auto technology students have put a little more dazzle on the Tri Star star returning to school with a state championship in hand.
Auto tech seniors Craig Lefeld and Dillan Schulze, both of St. Henry, took top honors recently at the annual Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition in Dayton.
They each won $45,000 in scholarships and will compete at national competition June 13 in Dearborn, Mich. If they win again, they may compete at world competition in Sweden.
The students qualified for state in December after taking a written test, along with about 1,000 other Ohio students, including their classmates.
"I wasn't so much worried about the rest of the guys (taking the written test), I was just hoping I could be ahead of the kids in our class and go on to state," Lefeld said.
Schulze agreed wholeheartedly.
Tri Star Career Compact auto tech instructor Jim Dorsten said the state champs were two of several "really great kids" who applied for the competition.
The 10 two-person teams at the state contest were each presented with a Mercury Milan with built-in defects. The students had to find the bad parts, bulbs, switches and other problems in 90 minutes.
"Sometimes the part looked perfect but there was some defect," Schulze said, noting the cam shaft position sensor was bad in their car, which triggered the engine light to come on. The team had to check the engine until all problems were successfully diagnosed.
Dorsten said each team wanted their engine perfect the first time they took the car before the judges.
"If something was wrong they got a demerit," he said. "Our guys weren't the first before the judges. They were actually the fourth car, but the first perfect car before the judges."
Dorsten and fellow teacher Harry McFeron, who will retire this year, have seen a lot of state competitions between them. But experience doesn't provide an advantage over other competitors.
"It's easy to explain: The cars change; the bugs change; and the rules change," Dorsten said.
But some things never change.
"We knew we had to hustle, but make sure the car was perfect," Lefeld said.
Tri Star Director Tim Buschur said the students' accomplishment speaks for itself.
"These are high level students working in technology that is not easy," he said. "Representing Ohio from 1,000 other students speaks volumes. This is a feather in the cap of this program."
Among the memorable moments of the state competition, one experience sticks out with both high school seniors: The ride in the 1930s Packard.
"That car weighed 5,000 pounds," Schulze said, still amazed and possibly wondering about the crank shaft.
But both agreed the best part of winning was "being able to do this for Mr. McFeron."
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