VVC hosts high school automotive competition

Photo by Fabian Guillen

The second annual Victor Valley College High School Automotive Technician Competition was held on November 1st and received with much enthusiasm from local students and teachers.

Seven schools were represented by student technician teams — two of which were all-girl — competing in various stations and being scored by volunteer VVC auto students.

“I’m glad we’re here because it’s really preparation for the future,” said Shaun Kittrell, automotive instructor for Silver Valley High School. “We spent an hour yesterday (preparing), which helped a lot. It’s a great experience for them.”

The stations of the competition included timed tire rotation, an engine compression test, building a functional LED circuit on a breadboard, engine parts identification and two types of writing activities.

Joshua Mennicke, one of Kittrell’s students from SVHS, described the challenge of working with small, individual parts during the breadboard activity.

Photo by Fabian Guillen

“You’re looking at little red and white wires and there’s a lot of tiny details,” Mennicke said. “You have to be very careful and diligent.”

The students also had to pay attention to detail while performing an interactive service writer exercise by completing a Bureau of Automotive Repair legal work order. 

The seven participating schools — Adelanto, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Oak Hills, Silver Valley and Sultana high schools — represented teams of about five student technicians each.

Photo by Fabian Guillen

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, just 2.1 percent of auto mechanics are female, making the two all-girl teams, from Adelanto and Hesperia high schools, especially significant.

“We have terrific automotive programs in our district, and we’re very proud of these young women for representing that so well,” said Kris Reilly, spokesman for VVUHSD. “It was wonderful to see such interest and we hope this inspires other girls who might be interested in the automotive field.”

Photo by Fabian Guillen

The highest scoring student from each school was awarded with a VVC automotive uniform shirt, safety glasses and Mechanix gloves.

Oak Hills High School earned the highest cumulative school score and was awarded with an annual perpetual trophy to display until next year’s competition and a diagnostic scanner worth about $900 donated by AESwave.

OHHS automotive instructor John Boulanger said his classroom “could absolutely use” the scanner, which he described as a handheld tool that allows them to interface with and diagnose vehicles.

“I thought the competition went great,” Boulanger said. “New technology is coming out all the time so the more competitions we can participate in the better.”

Dakota Appelhof, who was the top-performing student from OHHS, said the competition was “very interesting.”

“It’s something to show off our skills and what we’ve learned,” Appelhof said. “It tested both our speed and accuracy.”

OHHS will display the trophy for a full year until VVC’s next annual High School Automotive Technician Competition.

Photo by Fabian Guillen

Students in EV

VVC automotive grant extended to local high schools

Auto event

Three years ago, the Victor Valley College Automotive Technology Department obtained a clean fuels grant that helped create new and improved curriculum.

The California Energy Commission / Advanced Transportation and Renewable Energy grant also supported increased professional development and the purchase of state-of-the-art classroom equipment.

As a recent extension of the award, VVC partnered with Victor Valley Union High School District to channel funding from the energy commission to developing pilot training programs at two local high schools.

Adelanto and Victor Valley high schools were two of just eight schools in the state to be awarded. VVC officials joined representatives from the energy commission, Strong Workforce Transportation Sector, and VVUHSD at an award presentation last Wednesday.


“It was a really cool day,” said VVC Automotive/Industrial Technologies faculty member Steve Coultas. “It reinforces the linkages between us — there will be a much clearer, better transitional pathway from their propulsion programs to ours.”

Both high schools now have “Switch Lab” kits from Switch Vehicles, Inc., allowing students to build fully-functional electric cars from start to finish.

“Building an electric car is an experience I would have never thought I’d be a part of during high school,” Adelanto student Jayden White said to the crowd during the award presentation. “This project has been an amazing experience and it is something I will always remember.”

Students in EV

In October, Coultas attended a Switch Labs training workshop along with auto instructors from the awarded high schools, Robert Carlos from Victor Valley and Dave Mendoza from Adelanto.

“The automotive industry is evolving, and so are our automotive programs,” VVUHSD Career Technology Education Coordinator Dr. McKenzie Tarango said. “We are working with VVC to train a new generation of electric car technicians to meet the needs of the industry while providing students exposure to the high-wage careers of today and tomorrow.”   

While the high schools received vehicle kits with direct current (DC) propulsion, VVC’s auto program ordered a kit with alternating current (AC) propulsion thanks to funding from the Strong Workforce Program.

Arriving in time for a class in the Spring 2020 semester, it will compliment and advance what students coming out of the local high school programs have already learned.

“We have increased the rigor of our program by about 25 percent (in light of the industry changing rapidly),” Coultas said. “Thankfully, because of the grant funding, we’re a year ahead of other schools.”