East Providence Tech Center students win state automotive competition


EAST PROVIDENCE — East Providence Career and Tech Center students Michael Pierce and Noel Fournier were recently the winners of the 2013 state Ford AAA Automotive Student Skills Competition held at Warwick Mall on Thursday, May 2.

Both juniors, Messrs. Pierce and Fournier comprised a two-person team, which competed against seven other pairs of 11th and 12th grade automotive technology students high schools throughout Rhode Island with at least one full-time or part-time automotive instructor. EPCTC Automotive Instructor Joe Barroso mentored Messrs. Pierce and Fournier.

The EPCTC duo first completed and passed a written exam, which tested their automotive knowledge. With two months in between to prepare, they were among the students scoring the highest on the exam who then qualified to participate in the “hands-on” state event, which challenged the students' ability to diagnose and fix uniformly “bugged” new Ford vehicles as quickly as possible while ensuring quality workmanship. This year's competition automobile model was a Ford Focus. The pair found all 10 "bugs" in the least amount of time, 1 hour and 10 minutes.

"The kids did an unbelievable job," Mr. Barroso said of his students. "I can't say enough about them. They came in every day on April vacation, even on Saturday, to practice. They worked every night after school and on most Saturdays to prepare. They put the time in. They earned it."

Practice made the EPCTC students nearly perfect during the state competition last week, and each agreed their preparation leading up to the event, particularly in gaining an understanding of the software component of the Focus, was key to their success.

"We felt pretty confident going in because Joe 'bugged' the car we had every way he could," Mr. Pierce said. "That and because we worked on the car as many times as we could after school and in our spare time at Tasca Ford. The people there were really nice to let us do that."

"Joe tried to make the situation as much like the competition as possible, so it made us be as efficient as possible," Mr. Fournier added.

Mr. Barroso, like his students, noted the generosity of Tasca General Manager Alex Castergini and his staff. Mr. Castergini offered a Ford Focus for the team to use as a practice vehicle.

As the winning duo, Messrs. Fournier and Pierce from each state is recognized with scholarships, tools, and awards, and, along with their instructor, Mr. Barroso, received an expense-paid trip to the national finals at the Ford Motor Company Headquarters in Dearborn, Mich., June 9-12, where the locals will vie opposite representatives from all 49 other states.

"It's a pretty big deal," Mr. Pierce said of heading to the national event. "It's an honor to represent Rhode Island as the technical team to compete against all the other states. We're going to see who is the best of the best."

The national finals competition includes another written test and a “hands-on” competition, similar to the one held at the state level, but with a different, new Ford vehicle. The team with the fewest quality-of-workmanship demerits and the best combined total score of repair time and written exam scores will be the winner.

For their efforts, students who advance through the Ford AAA competition earn the opportunity to win scholarships, trophies, apparel, certificates, shop manuals, trips and automotive equipment. Instructors are eligible to win equipment, service publications, trophies and prestige for their schools. Opportunities with the Ford ASSET program will be available to many of the competition finalists.

Additionally, the names of each contestant who registers for the competition are submitted to AAA affiliated service facilities, Ford Motor Company dealers, and many other sponsoring organizations that have a need for automotive technicians and other service specialists. This competition complements other Ford and AAA efforts to promote the careers in the automotive field.

For the two young men from the EPCTC, their win at the state competition served as a bit of reinforcement of the lessons they've learned to date at school and punctuated their decision to pursue a career in the automotive industry.

"Before I was in ninth grade, I knew I wanted to be an automotive mechanic, but I knew nothing about how cars worked," Mr. Fournier said. "Most of the kids here grew up in car families. I didn't. I've already learned so much. To get to this point where me and Mike can win a competition like this amazing to me."


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Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.