BUSINESS

G-A students shine at state competition, advance to nationals

PAT FRIDGEN, Echo Pilot
Joshua Long and Brandon Clever read a diagnostic monitor at Franklin County Career and Technology Center. The two were state champs in an automotive skills contest.

Two Greencastle-Antrim High School seniors won the trip of a lifetime for their automotive skills. Teammates Brandon Clever, 18, and Joshua Long, 17, took first place at the Pennsylvania Automotive Association Automotive Technology Competition in Hershey on Feb. 21. They bested nine other teams, selected after 102 students from 18 schools took the qualifying exam.

Brandon and Josh advance to the national contest in New York City on April 1-3. It will be held during the New York International Auto Show.

The youth are enrolled in the automotive technology program at Franklin County Career and Technology Center.

Instructor Bobby Bard will accompany his students when they face 29 other teams from around the country. A PAA representative will also go along. The organization is covering the $6,000 cost of the trip.

Brandon and Josh excelled in an online test offered to seniors at FCCTC, and their combined score put them in the state contest.

The teams faced a three-hour hands-on test, diagnosing a no-start issue with a 2013 Toyota Camry. While Bard has had five teams place in the top 10 in the past, this was the first time anyone took championship honors. He has been cramming with the two at night in the few weeks between competitions.

"We have an idea what they'll be tested on," Bard said. "It will take six hours, and they will also go through a job interview. They have their resumes ready."

The students have classroom preparation and real-life experience in fixing vehicles. Both are involved in the Capstone Cooperative Education Program, and work in repair shops during the school day.

Brandon is at Bill Bowers Tire and Auto in Greencastle, and Josh is at Forrester Lincoln in Chambersburg.

"We consider them training sites to apply knowledge and skills in the business world, and to grow with the technology," said FCCTC director Keith Yohn.

Neither winner has ever been to the Big Apple.

"It will be a whole new experience," said Brandon.

Josh has looked at the prizes for first place, including scholarships and a $10,000 toolbox. Every participant will go home with part of the $3 million in rewards. The two already garnered $2,000 scholarships to a Pennsylvania automotive school with their state title, as well as socket sets.

During their three semesters in the FCCTC course, they came a long way. Brandon, enrolled through G-AHS, had some experience with mechanics. Josh, home-schooled, did not.

"I didn't know anything about cars before," he said. "I didn't know the difference between a camshaft and a crankshaft."

Both do now, and intend to make automotive repair a career.