Auto Service Technology students shift into another gear at national competition
May 13, 2019
Year after year, students enrolled in the Career and Technical Auto Service Technology class continue to excel. This school year was no different.
In February 2019, two students from the class, Reno Frate (Valley Forge) and Cru Webb (Parma), both seniors, won the 27th annual Greater Cleveland Automobile Dealer’s Association Automotive Technology Competition held at the I-X Center during the annual car show.
For finishing first, both students were awarded a $5,000 scholarship to any trade school. In addition, they qualified to compete at the National Automotive Technology Competition (NATC) in New York City this past April.
“I think it’s fabulous for the school district,” Gary Mitchhart, Auto Service Technology instructor explained. “It’s great for the kids and it gives them recognition. It opens up a lot of opportunities job-wise. If they choose to go on for post-secondary education, the amount of scholarship money is staggering...not to mention what’s on the line (at NATC) is a fully-paid scholarship to whatever tech school of their choice.”
Unfortunately, Webb was unable to attend the NATC in April. Stepping in for him was another senior in the Auto Service Technology program, Matt Noernberg, from Valley Forge.
For Frate and Noernberg, Auto Service Technology was a good fit. Frate comes from a family of successful auto technicians, including his father and grandfather. Noernberg discovered Mitchhart’s Auto Service program almost by accident.
“When I first started high school, I wanted to be a lawyer,” Noernberg expressed. “My junior year I had extra free periods and I couldn’t go home early because I didn’t have a ride. So I figured I’d take Automotive. Why not? I’ve always been into cars...I don’t mind getting dirty, I like that aspect, working on things.”
The journey to the NATC in New York started with the I-X Center competition. To qualify for the I-X Center show, the top two students from the class were selected based on how they answered 200 multiple choice test, split among four packets.
In all, five teams from Northeast Ohio would compete at the I-X Center with each team working on the same vehicle - a 2019 GMC Terrain. Teams were given real-life scenarios which they had to diagnose and then repair. One problem presented to the Valley Forge team included an oxygen sensor repair.
“We were very thorough,” Frate said. “With the oxygen sensor one, when it came to the actual amount of work that we did, it wasn’t a lot. One of the first things was to check it, and we found it was unplugged. But, the amount that we wrote down was quite a bit because we wanted to show what we did.”
Preparing for the NATC brought new challenges for students. For instance, the make and model of the car changed from a GMC to a Subaru.
“They (NATC) have a bunch of different things, but it’s going to be more in-depth” Frate said. “One of them is the electrical. Instead of just using a meter on a circuit board, we are actually going to have to solder wires and put them together, and use connectors and things like that. They’re going to take it up a notch.”
The NATC was held over April 22 through the 24 at the Javits Center in New York. The event featured more that $3 million in prizes and scholarships for students. It also featured an Automotive Career and Education Fair. In the end, Frate and Noernberg finished outside of the top 10, but, each walked away with $10,000 in scholarship money.
Frate continues to work at Axelrod Buick GMC in Parma, while Noernberg works at Mercedes Benz of North Olmsted. Both plan on using their scholarship money to continue their education in the fall. Frate will be attending the University of Northwestern Ohio while Noernberg will be attending Ohio Technical College.
“It’s hard enough winning at the I-X Center Show, but to go on and compete at the national level, you really are against the best of the best,” Mitchhart explained. “These guys are very well trained and there’s a lot of time that goes into it.”
PHOTO CAPTION: Reno Frate, left, and Matt Noernberg, right, each won $10,000 in scholarships at the National Automotive Technology Competition in New York in April. Also pictured is teacher Gary Mitchhart, center.