Alhambra High Duo to Represent State in Prestigious National Auto Tech Competition

Brian Wheeler teaches automotive technology at Alhambra High.
Brian Wheeler teaches automotive technology at Alhambra High.

By Jonathan B. Lance

Best in state! 

A two-student team from Alhambra High School CTE/ROP, of Martinez, overcame some stiff competition to take first place in the Northern California AAA/Ford Auto Skills Competition finals, held May 9 at the Blackhawk Auto Museum. 

In receiving the highest score statewide, the Alhambra team also beat the Southern California students competing in a separate state contest. 

The Alhambra team of Sanveer Garcha and Alfredo Gutierrez, taught by instructor Brian Wheeler, will now represent California in the national contest at the Ford Motor Co. Headquarters, in Dearborn, MI, held June 8-10. 

Along with their all-expenses-paid trip to the National Finals, the top teams will also receive a total of $133,000 in scholarship opportunities from some of the nation’s top technical schools, new tools from SnapOn, and a variety of other prizes from AAA. 

There will be a competing team from each state in the nation. 

This was Alhambra's third Northern California victory in as many years, but their first statewide win. 

“This is the first time in 10 years that a team from Northern California has won the state competition,” says Wheeler ­­– whom is also a finalist in this year’s Contra Costa County Teacher of the Year program. 

[Previous: Alhambra High Teacher Is Finalist for Contra Costa Teacher of Year.]

“At this year’s state competition there were 10, or so, faults placed in identical cars [the state vehicle this year was a 2014 Ford Fiesta] and the students, without the help of their instructor, have 90 minutes to repair the vehicle. A ‘perfect’ car is the goal. A ‘perfect’ car is one with no workmanship errors or flaws and all problems having been repaired,” he adds. 

Alhambra had the only perfect car in the state this year and finished 15 minutes ahead of the closest competitor. 

At the National Finals, competitors take a 100-question-written exam before facing off in a timed competition during which they must diagnose and repair a different set of bugs in a different Ford vehicle. 

The National Title goes to the team with the best-combined written test and hands-on competition scores. 

Regarding the two students’ excellent automotive talents, CTE/ROP Principal Sally Savage says, "Alfredo and Sanvere are auto technology interns at Walnut Creek Honda and Concord BMW. The combination of their classroom instruction at Alhambra and their dealership experiences help to reinforce their skills.” 

 “Brain Wheeler does an outstanding job of helping students graduate ready for a career after high school,” says Alhambra High School Principal Tom Doppe.

 “Largely through his own initiative, Brian has brought in equipment to give his students the experience of a professional auto shop. He also promotes his program and gives his students real world experiences by bringing them to competitions and helping them earn scholarships to technical schools. Brian is also an active part of the larger school community and strives to integrate technology and Common Core strategies with the same fidelity as his peers.” 

 Las Lomas High School (Walnut Creek) CTE/ROP students Miles Millan and Sam Thomas-Saindon, taught by instructor Steve Boone, took second place at the Northern California competition. 

Students Cody Crafts and Erricson Stevens, taught by instructor Mitch Crowden, of Casa Robles High School in Orangevale, came in third. 

Other Contra Costa County high school CTE/ROP participants included Acalanes (Lafayette) and Deer Valley (Antioch). 

The Contra Costa County Office of Education’s (CCCOE) CTE/ROP department serves nearly 11,000 students annually with classes in 34 high schools (such as Alhambra) throughout Contra Costa and Alameda counties. 

Currently, there are 368 state-of-the-art career development classes in this program. CTE/ROP focuses on career preparation and exploration, hands-on experience, and academic excellence to prepare students for success in college and future careers. 

The courses provide students with the newest equipment, rigorous academic standards, and classes in emerging technologies. All of these classes and programs are directed by and funded through the CCCOE. For more information about CTE/ROP classes, visit their website.


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