Auto team is tops in regional hot rod contest

   The Ramona High School Auto Dawgs have started off their competition season with a big victory. They won the National Hot Rod Association High School Challenge at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) in Rancho Cucamonga for the third straight year.

   It is the first year that any high school has won three years in a row. Ramona had two teams reach the semifinals in the event.

   Ramona High School also brought home the fourth-place trophy in the competition.

   Twenty-three teams participated in the event. Eight teams made it to the quarterfinals. Ramona had two teams in the Final Four, and the Dawgs beat Carlsbad High School in the finals.

   “This year the competition concentrated heavily on electronics,” said RHS auto competition adviser and coach Mike Saavedra. “In the semifinals, the teams had to solve a problem with a faulty headlight. The competition was timed, and Ramona had the best time.

   In the finals, the team had to solve a problem with a major electronic problem with a T-Bucket, said Saavedra.

   “The team was given a very basic handwritten schematic and get the vehicle running,” he said. “There were several problems: bad fuses, a bad ignition cap and assembly.”

   It was a timed event. Ramona got the car running in twenty-two minutes. Carlsbad never got their car running.

   “It was a very hot day and the team had to work in the hot sun on the dragstrip,” said Saavedra. “They never gave up or complained. They just took care of business,”

   “A T-Bucket is a fiberglass replica of a modified Model T Ford,” explained Kris Smith, a member of the championship team.

   Winning team members were Brandon Grassilli, Smith, Brandon Mendenhall and Rebecca “Becky” Nolin.

   “Becky was actually an alternate,” said Saavedra. “When an original member of the team came down with the H1N1 flu, she had only two weeks to get up to speed. She did a great job. A few years back, having a young lady on a top-notch competition team would have been big news, but we are getting more and more young ladies interested in the automotive industry. We have more girls in our program this year than ever before and they are good students, as Becky proved.”

   Grassilli is no stranger to automotive competition.

   “By the time he is finished this year, he will have the most wins and awards than any other automotive student at RHS,” said Saavedra. “Last year he took fourth in the nation at Skills/USA.”

   “This was the biggest win so far,” said Grassili. “Winning three years in a row is a record. (Grassili has been on all three winning teams.) Our team worked hard and we got great instruction.”

   Grassilli’s goal is to win the rest of the competitions he enters this year.

   “I told Mr. Saavedra that I will try my best to help the team win the rest of the competitions,” he said. “I think that we can do it.”  

   For its efforts, team members will split a $3,000 U.S. Savings Bond, and they also took home a trophy.

   The fourth place team of Matt Tallman, Adam Kuebler, Cory Warren and Jake Jordan also brought home a trophy and gained valuable experience for the competitions ahead.

   
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