Where do you take your fuel cell electric vehicle for its yearly tune up? What do you do when your hydrogen truck breaks down? Do you know an automotive technician prepared to work on it? These are questions that America’s drivers are facing today as alternative fuel vehicles become more prevalent.

The AAA/Ford Auto Skills Competition gathers the most capable automotive technology students from across the country together to battle against the clock and each other to be crowned the best and fastest in the United States. The NAFTC’s participation brought further awareness of alternative fuel vehicles to the elite high school automotive students in the competition.

The competition, held June 9–11 in Dearborn, MI, tests high school students’ automotive knowledge, workmanship and problem-solving abilities with a written test and a hands-on race to diagnose and properly repair an intentionally “bugged” vehicle.

The competitors arrived at the historic Henry Hotel on Sunday, where they had the opportunity to tour the NAFTC’s brand new mobile Alternative Energy Learning Center, view electric motors from a plug-in Prius and a miniature hydrogen vehicle, get their questions answered by alternative fuel experts, and watch videos on all of the major alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles.

Early Tuesday morning, students gathered in front of the Ford World Headquarters, excited and nervous for the hands-on race against the clock. They had completed the written exam the day before, and were ready to get under the hoods of their vehicles for a little hands-on work.

Each team was given the opportunity to diagnose and repair a 2014 Ford Fusion—in under 90 minutes.

14 June Students Race 1

The winning team receives a free 5-day Electric Drive Vehicle Automotive Technician Training and a full set of manuals for a second alternative fuel vehicle course of their choice from the NAFTC, as well as scholarships and grand prizes from Ford Motor Company, AAA, and other event sponsors. Credit: NAFTC

“Last year, the NAFTC training was wonderful—the hands-on approach and really getting the kids involved made such a huge difference. It’s so important to get the kids interested in what they’re doing,” said Drew Barnes, automotive instructor at Vale High School in Vale, Oregon, and last year’s competition winner.

14 June Students Race 2

2014 Marks the second year that the NAFTC has been a sponsor of the competition. Credit: NAFTC.

Students from the Eastern Oklahoma County Technology Center in Choctaw, OK placed second in the competition, and will receive a free 2-day Petroleum Reduction Technologies Training from the NAFTC, as well as a set of manuals on a second course of their choice.

The NAFTC is also awarding the third place team, from Portland Arts & Technology High School in Portland, ME, a set of manuals of their choice.

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