KAPA‘A — Two seniors from Kapa’a High School are heading to Oahu to show off their mechanic might at the Skills USA Automotive Technology competition in February.
While it’s automotive teacher and competition Ryne Terao’s sixth time taking students to the competition, this time around it’s different.
For the first time, one of the students heading to the competition is a girl — Kapa’a senior Jolette Miner-Ho.
She’s been to the competition once before, but wasn’t able to participate.
This year, she’s ready to show the world what she knows about working on vehicles.
“I feel proud,” she said as the small team readied at Kapaa High for the event. “I know I have a job to do.”
Miner-Ho’s dad owns the auto shop Harbor Motors in Nawiliwili and has offered up the opportunity for Miner-Ho to take over the business one day, but Miner-Ho said she got involved with the class because she wanted to be able to take care of mechanical issues in her own vehicles, herself.
“I joined this class because I wanted to rely on myself to properly diagnosed my car. I wanted not to call my dad and ask him to check my car,” said Miner-Ho.
Her teammate who will also be competing in this individual competition is Ki Whitfielt-Ceeveck. This is his first year and he is excited to get the chance to experience it.
“I joined this class because I wanted to learn about automotive. How to work on a vehicle and know the basics on how the engine runs,” said Whitfielt-Ceeveck.
They will be traveling with Terao, who has been teaching their automotive class for six years.
According to Terao, the first year they competed, his team took the top three awards. The second year, they didn’t place, while the third year they took second. But then things turned around in the fourth year. He took one senior and that senior won 1st place and went to nationals to compete.
First and second place recipients receive scholarships and first place has an opportunity to compete in the national Skills USA competition. The Skills USA program also gives teens the opportunity to become leaders in their own communities.
The state competition is set for February 26 at the Leeward Community College and at Hawaii Convention Center, and the students will get the chance to explore Honolulu a little bit while they’re on Oahu.
“We will be taking them on a fun field trip the day before to the Honolulu Rail,” Terao said,
Both seniors are looking forward to meeting new friends from different islands and taking back with them a lifetime experience that will further their mechanic dreams.
Whitfielt-Ceeveck and Miner-Ho will be in direct competition during the event, but they both said they’re ready.
“New Skills, new experiences, I figure I’ll be able to strive and learn from this,” Whitfielt-Ceeveck said. “It’s big to me, its kinda stressful but exciting. We been training since August of last year.”
Terao said he tells his students this competition isn’t just about winning. It’s about learning.
“That’s the key, they gotta go there not feeling the pressure to win, but it’s the experience you gain,” he said.
The first thing Kauai’s team will do at the competition is take a written test that consist of 75 questions. This test is created by Skills USA. The test has safety questions and is divided into categories: Engine repair, engine performance, steering suspension and electrical.
“The basic written test is formatted like the professional test we take. It’s challenging,” said Terao.
Terao believes the key to being successful in this industry is to be literate and communicate. He teaches his students how to understand technical terms and the importance of vocabulary. He also recommends the owner of the car to read the owner manual and stay on top of their car maintenance service.
“A lot of times, the way I can diagnose a car and do it with speed and accuracy is my conversation with the owner. I ask them why it broke down and how it broke down,” said Terao.
For example, both students recommend pulling off to the side if their car would over heat. They both had similar ways of handling the situation. But both agreed with their teacher about letting it cool off and not driving it anymore.
Terao said, “If you keep driving it you can actually damage the cylinder…it will crack. Now the repair itself will be more costly.”