Once again the JJC Automotive department won the Illinois Skills USA Competition, which was held recently last April.
"The competition covers everything from what a mechanic would know to every automotive category," said Sergio Gonzales, a student from the JJC automotive class. "Once a week during lunch breaks, time was taken out to study one of the several categories to all the students to prepare what might be on the written tests," said fellow contestant, Matt Heckler.
"There was written tests and interviews, and several other sections," said Gonzales.
The competition itself takes place in three phases: the first was a written qualifying exam with about 100 questions covering almost all areas of repair and maintenance
"We had 25 students take the written exam, and then the top 15 students are invited for the hands on competition in Springfield in the first part of April," said Jim Coleman, professor at JJC’s Automotive department.
In the second phase, the Hands-on Competition, contestants put their automotive skills to the test on 18 highly varied mechanical subjects.
JJC had ten students qualify for advancement out of the 15 that were eligible.
The competition was grueling: contestants spent 15 to 20 minutes at each station and were tested on suspension alignments, electrical diagnosis, transmission repair, engine repair, and air condition testing and several other subjects.
"The students who placed highest in those tests were placed as state champion, and invited to go to the national event which takes place this year in Kansas City, Missouri. There, the top student from each of the 50 states goes head to head," said Coleman.
"It’s six to seven hours of straight competition, with no lunch break," said the winner of the event, Tom Hahn.
"The electrical stuff is what everyone has difficulty with," explained Hahn.
"Those were the things that I excelled at with my prior experience at previous competitions and classes I’ve taken at the JJC auto program."
Hahn scored a perfect 50 out of 50 points in the electrical test, a score that was unmatched in the competition.
"The biggest surprise was the air conditioning section, which was almost not existent last year, and didn’t think it would be (there) this year."
"So it was a bit difficult when there was a large air conditioning section," said Hahn.
Hahn is planning to continue studying automotive engineering at Southern Illinois University after finishing at JJC with an Associate in Applied Sciences degree.
Hahn hopes to work with alternative fuels more in depth as he continues his education and career.
"I’m really interested in hydrogen fuel cells because I think that is the future cars and transportation," said Hahn.
JJC has won the Illinois Skills USA hands on competition for the last six years in a row.
JJC in winner circle
In general, victories have been piling up for JJC programs, whether its the Culinary Department or the Blazer student newspaper.
Last year one student went to nationals and placed seventh in the nation.
In state competitions, the team has been consistently excellent, winning eight of the last nine competitions.
"The one year we didn’t win, we got second and third," said Coleman.