Senior Matthew Spalding and junior Ryan Stebbins represented the Nature Coast Technical High School automotive program in the recent Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Competition at Seminole State College in Sanford.
Sixteen Nature Coast students took a written test, vying for the chance to compete at the state level. Nature Coast automotive instructor Kevin Moglia said more than 260 students statewide tried to get to state, but only 20 make it to that level.
"In the last seven years, we made it there six times," Moglia said. "The program is very well known."
The students prepared by studying 2013 Ford Focus SE models lent to the school by Flammer Ford of Spring Hill and AutoWay Ford of Brooksville.
"Both dealerships lent us cars for a couple of days," Moglia said.
The competition, Moglia said, is "about diagnosing an automobile, repairing it and being able to complete the proper paperwork."
And it's difficult to prepare. The students don't know what to expect. The problems they face may be electrical, mechanical or even dealing with documentation.
The competition is different every year, and students only get to go once. The major sponsors are the University of Northwestern Ohio, Seminole State College, Universal Technical Institute, Ohio Technical College, Matco Tools and NAPA Auto Parts.
Spalding and Stebbins, each 17 years old, won $1,000 scholarships to the University of Northwestern Ohio and one-year AAA roadside assistance memberships.
Spalding will graduate soon.
"I'm really interested in working on cars," he said, and that is a possible career for him. He plans to attend Pasco-Hernando Community College, then transfer to a university to study business administration, useful whether he repairs cars or not.
He is the son of Susan and William Spalding of Spring Hill.
"I like working with my hands," Stebbins said when asked about his interest in the auto program. "And my dad is an auto tech."
Since he's a junior, Stebbins has a little time to decide on his future, but he has some ideas.
"If I do go into working on automobiles, it will definitely be on classic cars," he said.
He plans to continue school at a college or university and is thinking about majoring in mechanics or history.
He is the son of Lana and Gavin Stebbins of Brooksville.
Moglia is assisted by automotive paraprofessional Dan Murphy.