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Champions at Work

This past week I had the opportunity to partake in a student leadership conference as part of my training as a new state Skills USA officer. Geared toward high school alphabet soup organizations (such as FBLA, DECA, FFA) the Skills state officer team was among the smallest groups represented.

With seven officers we had ample opportunity to navigate the challenges of the workshop (such as having the bulk of our day explicitly scheduled). For us this served as a means to become better acquainted and take steps toward working together more effectively as a team. For me though, it provided insight into the inner workings of groups I knew very little about while a high school student.

It seems as though this is one of those things that I missed out on while in high school. As a high schooler I studied a lot, participated in marching band and helped craft our yearbook. But my big resume leadership presence came in the form of being French Club Historian. French Club didn’t have leadership training. We had coups. Freshman year we overthrew our then president and her cabinet because they didn’t do anything. So we staged a coup and then proceeded to enjoy three more years of doing nothing. But it was our nothing. Viva la revolution, right?

But you can’t have a revolution when there’s work to be done. I ran for this office in order to make a difference. Our Skills chapter at Front Range is a black sheep in that we don’t really have formal organization. We just have open shop time where we put our wrenches to work and provide basic maintenance for the administrative staff. Beyond my chapter though I have no idea what other groups do. Auto Tech is a part of Skills, but there’s so much more than that. Culinary arts, welding, precision machining, cosmetology, Emergency Medical Services….you name a service or technical career field and it’s probably represented in Skills as career training.

There’s a national competition too. It’s taking place this week in Kansas City, MO where the first and second place state winners compete to show off their mad skills. All in all there are many more layers to this being an epic team player than I originally anticipated. As reporter for the state of Colorado it’s my goal to increase communication between chapters and get the word out on what everyone is doing all year round rather than just waiting until our state competition in April.

That’s what I gleaned from this leadership conference.

Not how to improve my networking.
Not how to organize my own successful workshop.

But how to get myself in gear and help steer the state team in a productive direction for our one-year assignment together.

Here’s hoping we don’t have to pull the emergency brake prematurely.


Took a wrong turn at the game of Life

I didn’t so much take a wrong turn, as I stumbled onto the Busy Busy All-the-time interchange and can’t seem to get back.

Fall classes are going awesome. Brakes I and II wrapped up and segued right into the week-long engine removal class. That concluded last Monday and now we’re on the fast-track for engine repair.

The afternoon electrical class is also equally rewarding. So far I’ve cleaned three batteries. Which is really not at all high maintenance but has brought a Ninja Mechanic related issue to my attention. Maintenance-free batteries are not maintenance free.

Once upon a time, batteries needed regular attention and sometimes additional fluid to keep their electrolyte level in top shape. Then along came the maintenance-free battery that had a little gauge to tell you when it needed attention. To my understanding that took the guessing game out of when to tend to your battery, but you still need to check under the hood every once in a while.

Case in point:
-For Skills this past week I brought in my aunt’s Chevy Tracker for an oil and air filter change as a belated birthday present to her. When I went to pop the hood and go to town, the Chevy’s blue fuzzy battery caught my attention. Batteries should not, under any circumstances, be blue and fuzzy.

Later this week I’ll have a post on easy at-home battery maintenance, but for right now I’ve gotta clock in for the night.

Skills 10-30-09
3.5 hours
-Oil and air filter change
-Battery maintenance
-Tire change

Oil change Skills

Skills hours: 3 hours

We had a full house today at the Skills workshop. All five lifts were occupied with a couple of folks working on their cars on the shop floor.

Today my work included two oil changes for admin and a lesson in diagnostics. I’m getting quicker with my oil changes, but need to not forget to double-check for leaks under the car. On the Mazda I remembered that only after I’d already poured in 3 qts. of oil.

The owner of the Mazda also wanted us to check the brakes. That’s where the diagnostics lesson came in. There was a lot of buildup around the brake fluid reservoir, so that suggests there’s a nasty leak there somewhere. We weren’t able to top her off though since we were all out.

While I was doing the oil change I noticed that the seal around the drain plug on the oil pan is getting worn and the whole plug needs to be replaced. Again, today, there wasn’t much we could do about it since we’re just a volunteer shop with limited access to parts. I made a note anyway on the service order and since we keep a copy of it, the next time it comes in we’ll be ready. ting

Skills workshop — 2.5 hours

I’m going to be a little bit lazy and use the blog to record my volunteer time with the Skills program. So every once in a while I might go into techno geek mode to talk about the fun stuff we get to do under the hood for the program. Skills gives auto tech students a place and a chance to get hands-on experience working on cars. Hopefully, we’ll be able to expand the program over the semester to bring in non-auto tech students’ cars for oil changes and other routine maintenance.

There are two benefits to recording my work this way:

1) I don’t have to try and keep track of yet another log book (I had one in high school for my CAS hours with the IB program and several in college part I for RA and fencing stuff)


2) it forces me to make blogging more of a habit.

Skills learned today:

-Put a new battery in the shop’s Ford Ranger.

-Drained the Ranger’s oil and fixed the leak from the oil pan by putting on a new gasket. Apparently it was left off when some other folks changed the oil.

-Refilled the anti-freeze and discovered a leak from somewhere in the cooling system.

End result:

-The Ranger runs … it just now drips clear green fluid.

Next time, I promise I’ll talk about something more general.