Seniors strut their stuff at auto skills event

Lennon, Prachar take second place at state finals

Luke Lennon (left) and Dave Prachar under the hood of a car during their auto skills class taught by Matt Beukema at Forest Lake High School. (Photo by Clint Riese)

Clint Riese
Staff Writer

A pair of Forest Lake High School seniors this month proved to be among the handiest in the state when it comes to fixing up a car.

Luke Lennon and Dave Prachar teamed up to place second out of six teams at the Ford/AAA Auto Skills Competition State Finals held May 2 in Brooklyn Park. The third-annual event challenges the teams to correctly diagnose and fix approximately 10 “bugs” on a vehicle.

The squads have 90 minutes to work. Lennon and Prachar had slight difficulty installing a headlight, but cruised otherwise and finished 20 minutes early. They correctly repaired each bug, but one mistake cost them the title.

“We had a perfect car, except the reason we got second was we forgot a screwdriver in the fuse box,” Lennon said with a laugh.

The seniors took home a host of prizes, including a nice trophy, for their second-place effort. (Photo by Clint Riese)

The Rangers still earned quite a haul for their efforts: Scholarships worth $46,000 combined, hand tools and a diagnostic scan tool.

They each will pass on the tech school scholarship because they already had other college plans. Lennon will play football at the University of Mary and plans to study business. Prachar will pursue a mechanical engineering degree at the University of Minnesota–Duluth.

Up their alley

For Lennon and Prachar, the competition was right up their alley. Both have grown up tinkering with old vehicles and machines.

What tied it all together was Matt Beukema’s popular Auto Tech class at the high school. Students learn first-hand through real vehicle repair orders. Customers pay for parts, but labor is free. The course has a wait list and therefore is filled each semester primarily with seniors.

Each student takes a statewide computerized examination as part of the auto skills contest. The top two scores from each school must surpass a cut-off point to qualify for the state finals. A team of Rangers qualified in 2010 and placed fifth, and no one made the cut last spring.

Once Lennon and Prachar qualified, Beukema made sure they were prepared.

“I thought we had a pretty good chance going into it, because we had a car we were borrowing and Mr. Beukema was bugging it and we had to fix it, so we had quite a bit of training,” Prachar said.

Though neither student plans a career in the automotive industry, they feel they picked up valuable skills in the class.

“We’re both pretty strong in mechanical [knowledge] because we both own older vehicles, so we’ve done quite a bit of work like that, but as far as electrical [skills] we learned quite a bit,” Lennon said.