Servicing brakes can be a complicated, messy and difficult task.
So many parts to fit together, so many things to remember, so many things that can go wrong.
But the Auto Tech I students at Oxford High School make it look so easy.
Last week, 25 of these budding young mechanics participated in the auto program’s annual brake service competition.
Two-person teams were pitted against each other to see who could completely disassemble and reassemble two different sets of rear drum brakes in the least amount of time.
All the work had to be done as quickly and accurately as possible as the seconds ticked away on the stopwatch. Errors in craftsmanship could disqualify a team’s time.
During the 90-minute competition, the teams worked feverishly and relentlessly until they either achieved desirable times or ran out of time.
A mere 16 seconds separated this year’s first and third place finishers.
“It was pretty tight,” said Auto Technology teacher Dan Balsley said.
Earning first place were Jacob Konarski and Terry Sculley, who had a combined time of 4 minutes and 7 seconds.
Coming in second were Jakob Butterfield and Chase Moore. They had a combined time of 4 minutes and 11 seconds.
Jakob Butterfield and Ethan LaRock took third place with a combined time of 4 minutes and 23 seconds.
Butterfield’s name appears twice because there was an odd number of competitors this year, so he had to pull double duty.
“That’s kind of unusual, but it gives him an opportunity at double prizes,” Balsley said.
And what an assortment of prizes there was.
“There were tool sets, screwdriver sets, bolt drivers, flashlights, magnetic trays, shirts, tool pouches and toolboxes,” Balsley said.
Years ago, Balsley started the competition as a way to motivate students who hated servicing brakes or were intimidated by the challenging work.
“When I made it a competition, that seemed to appeal to them,” he said. “It made it a lot more fun. It’s easier to learn when it’s fun. I think the retention is better, too, because they’re enjoying what they’re doing.”
“By the end of the competition, I could take a box of parts, throw it on the ground and they would put it together in a matter of minutes,” Balsley noted.
But as “competitive” and “focused” as the students became during the competition, Balsley said they still exhibited “good-natured” attitudes and “good sportsmanship.”
“I was pleased to see that,” he said.
Sponsors for this year’s competition were the Rotary Club of Oxford, Steve’s Oxford Automotive, Wright Tool Co. and the Oxford McDonald’s.
Balsley is grateful to everyone who volunteered to help run the competition by timing students. Timekeepers ranged from former auto students to Superintendent Tim Throne and Mike Schweig, former OHS principal and former school board member.
“I was pleased with all of the support,” Balsley said.