Seniors Eric Harlan, of Bristol Township, and Dominic Carbone, of Falls, are the first pair from the Bristol Township school to win the Greater Philadelphia Automotive Technology competition.
A keen knack for troubleshooting cars has earned two Bucks County Technical High School seniors some prestigious recognition and a fairly massive haul of prizes.
Working together as a pair, Eric Harlan and Dominic Carbone recently became the first team from the Bristol Township school to win the Greater Philadelphia Automotive Technology competition.
Eric and Dominic topped 11 other two-person teams from technical schools throughout the Delaware Valley in the contest held at the Automotive Training Center in Warminster.
For the victory, each student won $130,000 in scholarships they can use if they choose at various higher education technical schools around the area and country, $930 worth of new tools, a $100 Visa gift card, $100 Home Depot gift card, $25 Iron Hill gift card and a duffel bag filled with $50.
And while a subsequent trip to the national competition in New York City saw them finish out of the top 10, that didn’t dim the luster of the earlier win for either Eric or Dominic.
“When I heard our names announced as the winners, I just said, ‘No, I can’t believe it,’” Dominic said.
Being the first at the school to achieve something was a real charge, Eric added.
“All our hard work preparing paid off,” he said.
Several other technical schools from Bucks and eastern Montgomery counties competed at the Greater Philadelphia event, which is organized by the Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia, the group that runs the annual Philadelphia Auto Show. All competitors are seniors.
The Greater Philadelphia competition involved the teams spending 20 minutes each at 10 work stations fixing problems in different parts of an automobile, including the engine’s fuel and electrical components, suspension system and many others. All teams also were given a new vehicle and given 45 minutes to prepare it for sale, including diagnosing any problems and fixing them.
Eric and Dominic earned 1,261 points out of a possible 1,500. Judges awarded points for completing tasks on time and for quality of work but the biggest factor was how carefully and accurately the teams recorded all their repairs, Auto Dealers Association of Greater Philadelphia spokeswoman Andrea Simpson said.
“Documentation is vital to all automotive repairs and maintenance and therefore, it’s vital to earning points in our competition,” she said. “The majority of points are awarded for the quality of documentation. Proper documentation includes an explanation for each of the three Cs — concern, cause and correction.
“For example, if a team finds and fixes all the faults and gets the car started but does not properly complete the repair order by documenting the three Cs for each fault, that team would earn only a fraction of the potential points.”
Byron Cesari, Eric and Dominic’s automotive technology instructor at BCTHS, said the sky is the limit in the automotive arena for these two.
“They are very good students, both very self confident and self motivated,” Cesari said.
Both already have worked extensively as technicians at the Colonial Nissan dealership in Lower Southampton. Eric still works there, almost 40 hours a week, and Dominic recently left to accept another technician job at a Fred Beans dealership in Newtown Township.
Dominic has decided to use the scholarship money he won to further his automotive education with a two-year program at Universal Technical Institute in Exton. Eric has chosen not to use his scholarship money but instead will attend Penn State-Abington to major in mechanical engineering for two years, and from there may continue either at Abington or Penn State’s main campus in an automotive technology program.
Eric dreams of someday being one of the leading engineers at someplace like General Motors or Ford, while Dominic said he’d like to be an automotive teacher, maybe at BCTHS.
Eric, 17, of Bristol Township, credits his father Bill — manager of a printing press company — with instilling within him a love of cars and fixing them.
“Dad loved working on cars as a hobby,” Eric said. “I remember when I was 5, he bought an old rust bucket ’66 Chevelle and started working on it, and that’s how I got interested. I would hang around the garage and ask how I could help, and he started teaching me about tools and how to use them. It just grew from there and never stopped.”
Dominic doesn’t have such a vivid memory of how his love for cars started.
“I’ve just always liked working with my hands, doing things not everybody could do,” said Dominic, 17, of Falls. “When the time came, I enrolled in the automotive program at Bucks, and here I am.”