Tomorrow’s Technicians Compete At The SEMA Show

by Don Elliott on November 17, 2011

Every once in a while, I get to see something that makes me proud to be a part of the automobile industry. I have said in this space in the past that I have a keen appreciation for car dealers and the way they adapt their businesses to changing markets, new regulations, product variety and service requirements. While at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge made me once again appreciate being a part of the auto industry.

Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge

At first, I walked by the event held in the Grand Lobby of the massive Las Vegas Convention Center. I knew that there was something exciting going on as people crowded and cheered around one of four car engines mounted on engine stands set up like they would be in an automotive service shop or racing garage.

Five young mechanics and their instructor hovered over one of the identical high performance small block Chevy engines with 4 barrel carbs, chrome air cleaners, and valve covers waiting for the competition to begin. Thirty teams from high schools across the nation had assembled for the tear down and reassemble time trials. Clearly, these teams came to the finals of the competition well prepared. Only hand tools were permitted and each team was judged to assure that all torque specifications, lubrication, and procedures were done correctly.

The competition mimics the disassemble and reassemble process done in drag racing between heats. The entire engine is taken apart all the way down to the engine block, except for the cam and crank. Teamwork and organization are critical to be successful. Parts and tools have to be kept in easy reach and the proper order. Events are timed and penalties assessed to ensure correct assembly. According to the rulebook, the engines have to be in running condition when reassembled and fluids added.

As you might imagine, this competition receives significant support from the performance racing industry. NASCAR Performance and Edelbrock were the lead sponsors. The team mechanics were able to make important connections with the biggest names in racing and take home some significant prizes. The winning team and their instructor will attend NASCAR Acceleration Weekend in Charlotte, NC on January 20-22. They will tour the NASCAR Technical Institute in Mooresville, NC and attend the NASCAR Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. $275,000 in scholarships was also awarded to team members from the top ten teams in this year’s competition.

So how fast does a team have to be to win the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge? Team Moroso from LOARA High School in Anaheim, CA took home first prize with an average disassemble and reassemble time of just 21.08—that’s twenty one minutes and eight seconds to take an engine apart and put it back together! Now that’s something to be proud of accomplishing!

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