Students Seek Scholarship Money At Auto Skills Contest

NEWARK – Scholarship money will be on the line this weekend when Andy Acosta-Ruiz and Jesse Bowden, two high school seniors from Worcester County, compete in the Maryland Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition in Catonsville.

“It’s a lot of pressure on these guys but it’s going to be alright,” said Worcester Technical High School (WTS) automotive teacher Anthony Saullo.

Acosta-Ruiz and Bowden scored at the top of an online exam recently, qualifying the two seniors for the state competition. Ten teams of two students each from around Maryland will compete.

The winners of the state competition will go on to the national competition in Detroit, Mich.

The two seniors have been preparing for the competition by learning every sensor and component of a 2010 Ford Fusion loaned to the high school by Hertrich Ford, giving them an edge this weekend. The students spend an hour to an hour and a half in the auto shop every day.

“It’s very important to get to work with the vehicle you’re working on in the competition,” said Colleen Nichols, senior manager at Hertrich Ford of Pocomoke.  “It’s a huge advantage to the kids.”

Hertrich stays involved with the technical high school because it wants to recruit locally-trained technicians, she said.

“We are firm believers in growing our own and molding them to Hertrich expectations and giving them a good career,” Nichols said.

This Saturday, competitors will have an hour and a half to fix a disabled Ford Fusion and drive it over a finish line. The car must be drivable over that point or the students’ work does not count.

“Hopefully, they can get across the finish line,” said Saullo.

To prepare for the competition, both WTS students have worked with a scanner and several thick books of computer codes and information. Each code describes a different malfunction in the brand new car, and the students need to know them all.

“It gives you every little detail you need,” said Acosta-Ruiz.

Both Acosta-Ruiz, a Stephen Decatur High School Student, and Bowden, a Snow Hill High School student, will attend the University of Northwestern Ohio next year, seeking automotive associates degrees.

First, the boys must get through this weekend’s competition.

“I know we can do it. It’s just a little nerve wracking,” said Acosta-Ruiz.