The roar coming from McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base Thursday morning, April 28, won’t be from a KC-135 jet, but rather a big block Chevrolet engine.
High school students from throughout the region will converge on the base to participate in the 20th annual Top Wrench competition.
“We will have 15 schools represented this year from 10 counties with more than 450 students,” said Top Wrench founder Tech Sgt. Joe Marshall (Ret.), USAF.
Events will include the Pit Crew Wheel-Changing event, welding, painting, Computer Car Engine Diagnostic Trouble-Shooting and Static Engine Competition, Marshall said.
Marshall founded the competition 20 years ago as a way to encourage students to live a drug-free lifestyle. “I think the motivation is that the adult service personnel in the Air Guard are serious about passing on to the next generation what we know and respect -- a drug-free workplace. We’re proud of that,” Marshall said.
In the Static Engine Competition, a big block Chevrolet engine is a static display on an engine stand. The teams have to debug it and get the engine started. Each team has 10 minutes to diagnose the problem and get it running, Marshall explained said.
In the Computer Car Engine Diagnostics Trouble-Shooting competition, the car is “virtual.” The students have a “computer” car with parts from 18 different cars. The computer car has a problem, and each team has 15 minutes to figure out the problem.
Marshall said the students have to diagnose the problem, get the flaw or trouble code out of the computer, go to a laptop computer and pull down on a satellite server that tells them exactly what computer part is defective. They have to hands-on replace that part and get the engine running within 15 minutes, he said.
In the Pit Crew Wheel-Changing Competition, the students have to take a wheel off and put it on back a car in a timed event. The fastest time gets the win.
“In the painting competition, we simplified it by having them paint a metal mail box and they will be judged on preparation and appearance,” he said. “This is our first year doing this area of the competition.”
In the welding competition, Marshall said the students build scaled-models of Rat Rods. “A Rat Rod is most popular thing in street rods today. It is old cars the students put together with whatever they can get a hold of. It is really, really hot right now and is the fastest growing part of the street rod scene,” Marshall said. “Our competition is a scale model -- 12 inches by 20 inches -- that they are welding. They will be judged on their creativity. It is artistic competition as well.”
Marshall said both William Blount and Heritage high schools are participating. “I was at William Blount High School, and the kids have been practicing, practicing and practicing, and they’re ready,” he said. “I’ve had lot of calls from Heritage High School, and the students anticipate doing well. They say they’re going to win it all!”
Central High School in Knoxville won in 2010m with William Blount coming in second, Marshall said.
Schools participating this year include William Blount and Heritage high schools, Union County High School, Anderson County High School, Campbell County High School, Sequoyah High School, Sevier County High School, Granger County High School, Roane County High School, South-Doyle High School, Gibbs High School, Knox Central High School and Bearden High School, Cocke County High School and Copper Basin High School.
“The William Blount High School media broadcast class led by Paula Jones are the ‘press corps,’” said Marshall. “They’re coordinating interviews with the participants and teachers and sponsors and writing their story to be produced for their in-school television showup-and-coming journalists are excited.”
The first prize in all five competitions is $100 each, and second places will receive $50 each. Every participant gets a T-shirt from the Air Guard.