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South Elgin auto club dismantles at Las Vegas

By Seth Hancock
  The South Elgin High School Auto Club is preparing students for automotive careers, and they’re building a competitive edge as they saw success at the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge.
  The competition, which has teams tear down and rebuild an engine, saw a South Elgin team finish 10th with an average time of 33 minutes, 53.4 seconds at the SEMA Show in Las Vegas.
  This year, South Elgin’s national qualifier improved on that time (26:28) and finish (seventh) as they competed in Las Vegas in November. Dan Perritt was on both teams and was joined this year with Dean Alteri, Leanne Driscoll, Sammy Marsala and Ryan Rompel.
  There were over 250 teams nationwide, and South Elgin had one of the 22 that advanced to the national competition. Their team had a time of 31:41 at the Race and Performance Expo in St. Charles in February to advance.
  “I really enjoy giving the students something they can use in the future,” said Steve Schertz, an automotive instructor and the team’s coach. “To say that they competed in nationals carries a lot of clout in job applications and resumes. They competed nationally among other high school students in their ranks and did a fantastic job.”
  At nationals, teams went through the teardown and rebuild process four times to come to an average time.
  At the Nov. 16 Board of Education meeting in School District U-46, the team was highlighted during a presentation on the district’s curriculum fair. Although an engine was not able to fit into the room, the team was there and demonstrated their skills for board members in the hallway.
  Schertz said teams “tear down an average muscle car motor” and “they tear down, all the way down to the block, taking over 40 parts and 160 bolts”
  The garage at South Elgin High School garnered praise from U-46 CEO Tony Sanders.
  “Steve is a rock star in U-46,” Sanders said. “If you haven’t been over to South Elgin High and seen his garage and the Jeep that the kids built, it will blow your socks off.”
  Board member Phil Costello asked about the career paths those students in the auto club plan to pursue, and Schertz said there are a wide range of careers in the industry and the majority of his students plan on attending private automotive schools or take automotive classes at Elgin Community College after graduating from South Elgin.
  “They’re training for different levels in the transportation industry, not just turning a wrench,” Schertz said. “But I have kids who are going to be automotive engineers, service writers, management. I have students going into the military to fix and repair service vehicles, and the large majority do go into service.”
  Board member Jeanette Ward asked more about the engine and if it was a V-8. Schertz said it was and “it is an old one where it’s easier to get to everything.”
  Ward said that “I still remember intake, compression, power, exhaust” referring to the piston strokes of an internal combustion engine.
  A video of the team called Auto Club Road to Nationals can be found on the U-46 YouTube page.

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