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Watauga High School Students Place Third in National Auto Skills Competition


Graham Roten and Daniel Taylor
Graham Roten and Daniel Taylor

Watauga High School students Graham Roten and Daniel Taylor won third place in the national Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition held at the Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan June 7-9.

Roten and Taylor advanced to the national competition on the strength of their first place finish in state Student Auto Skills competition in April. State championship teams from all 50 states take part in the national Auto Skills competition and it’s quite an honor just to be part of the event. The 50 state champions emerge from a total pool of about 11,500 teams that seek to compete in Auto Skills events.

In Student Auto Skills competitions, two person teams are given identical vehicles and a very general description of the problems it is having, similar to the description that might be given by a vehicle owner who has brought a car in for repairs, and just 90 minutes to diagnose and correct the problems. The cars have been “bugged” by Ford experts prior to the competition. Along with this hands-on part of the event, Auto Skills competitions also include a written exam to test students’ understanding of automotive technology.

At the state level, Roten and Taylor were the only team that delivered a perfect car within the allotted time. The teammates again completed a perfect car at the national finals but were edged out by two other teams in the total scoring.

Larry Jones, automotive technology teacher at Watauga High School, noted that Roten and Taylor received over $100,000 in scholarship offers to various colleges and tech schools and over $2,500 worth of tools and equipment based on their outstanding performance at the event. Jones expressed his appreciation both for the skills the team displayed and for the way they handled themselves. “They did a wonderful job representing our state and school before, during, and after the competition.”

Jones also stated that the support Roten and Taylor received from area Ford dealers was critical to their success. Ashe County Ford loaned the team a 2015 Mustang for their preparation for the national finals and Boone Ford loaned them a 2015 Ford Fiesta to work on before the state competition. All teams worked on Mustangs at the national competition and Fiestas at the state level. “We are extremely fortunate to have the help of these dealerships,” said Jones. “It makes a huge difference in how our students fare in the competition and we are very grateful for their contribution to our success.”

The automotive technology curriculum at Watauga High School is one component of the school’s popular and successful career and technical education program. The high school’s other career-related offerings cover fields as varied as cosmetology, construction, welding, business and marketing, health occupations, family and consumer sciences, and computer science/technology. State figures show that high school students taking career and technical education courses have a higher graduation rate than other students.

The graduation rate for all students at Watauga High School is above the statewide rate and average SAT scores at the high school are the second best out of 115 school districts in NC.