WASHINGTON—When all the troubleshooting was over, a two-student technician team from Paris, Texas, stood in the winners circle of the 1999 Ford Motor Co./AAA Student Auto Skills national finals. The annual contest, featuring hands-on diagnostic and repair work and a written exam, is held to encourage students to pursue careers in automotive service. More than 6,000 high school student auto techs competed in this year's competition for nearly $10 million in scholarships and prizes.
Each participating high school automotive instructor selected up to eight senior student techs to take a 50-question written exam to determine teams for the state finals.
To qualify for the national championship, teams had to take another written exam and then were timed while they attempted to correctly diagnose and repair a deliberately ``bugged'' Ford vehicle.
This year's victorious national team, from North Lamar High School in Paris, Texas, was Mark Jones, 18, and Shawn Upchurch, 17, who outpaced competitors from every state to earn $65,500 in scholarships and prizes.
The second-place team was from Hawaii; students from Rio Grande, Ohio, took third place.
Held June 21 near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, the contest had high schoolers sprinting to identically ``bugged'' 1999 Ford Explorers, popping the hoods, then diagnosing and repairing the problems.
The winning team made the necessary repairs in 23 minutes.
The contest has been held annually since 1949, sponsored by various organizations dedicated to quality auto service. The American Automobile Association (AAA) has co-sponsored the competition since 1984; Ford has been the co-sponsor for six years.