NEW YORK — Judges of the National Automotive Technology Competition used to create a bug for vocational high school contestants to find by pinching a car's fuel line shut with a wooden clothespin. But times have changed.
In the under-the-hood final event of the two-day competition here in April, each two-student team had three hours to find and fix 20 to 25 problems on its assigned vehicle.
The problems, with small variations from car to car, included a bad resistor, a horn that needed replacing, a missing fuse and a missing jack handle.
Faulty electronics headed the list. The contestants spent most of the troubleshooting session huddled over laptop computers and other diagnostic tools, and not much time turning wrenches.
Two high school seniors from New York's Long Island, John DeLuca, 17, and Evan Wagner, 18, won this year's competition. Both say they plan to pursue careers as dealership service technicians after college.
The change in the contest's focus reflects the fact that service techs no longer are hired for their ability to do "bull work" requiring great physical strength, said Laurence Eiden, an industry consultant in Oakdale, Conn.
"Typical customer complaints are just as likely to be that 'my Bluetooth won't sync,' " Eiden said on the sidelines of the contest.
Eiden has spent more than 24 years working with 18 state-funded technical high schools in Connecticut. The schools graduate about 225 students each year who specialize in auto technology, Eiden said.
The best of these students are often tops in all academic subjects, not just automotive ones, he added.