Top Wrench competition welds technical and creative

Members of the Heritage High School Top Wrench competition team gather around a classic Muscle Car at the Top Wrench competition.

Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Members of the Heritage High School Top Wrench competition team gather around a classic Muscle Car at the Top Wrench competition.

Inclement weather couldn’t dampen enthusiasm.

That was the assessment Top Wrench founder Joe Marshall gave for the 20th annual Top Wrench competition at McGhee Tyson Air National Guard Base on April 28.

“We had 15 schools scheduled and only eight came. The weather was a factor in the attendance in how many schools came, but it didn’t affect school spirit,” Marshall said. “I’ve never experienced a Top Wrench with that much enthusiasm. The teams were pumped and ready.”

Heritage High School was the only Blount County team present at the competition that occurred the day after storms lashed the area, left many with property damage and no power and forced Blount County schools to close.

Marshall started the Top Wrench Competition as a way to teach career technical education students the importance of safety, problem solving skills, communication skills, teamwork and staying drug and alcohol free.

Events included the Pit Crew Wheel-Changing event, welding, painting, Computer Car Engine Diagnostic Trouble-Shooting and Static Engine Competition, Marshall said.

“We had a very good event,” he said. “I saw a lot of excellence in teamwork and problem solving. The teamwork stood out this year.”

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.

Copper Basin High School took first place, followed by West High School and North Knox Vocational Center (Gibbs and Halls high schools) was third, Marshall said.

In the Computer Car Engine Diagnostics Trouble-Shooting competition, 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.

Union County High School took first and was the only team to start the car in the allotted time.

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.

North Knox Vocational Center (Gibbs and Halls high school) won the wheel changing competition and West High School placed second.

“The mailbox competition was actually a painting competition where they took a smooth-sided mailbox, and they could pearl it, fade, scallop it or flame it - just be creative. They were judged on quality of paint and preparation. This was the second year for that competition, and it was really fun,” Marshall said.

North Knox Vocational Center - Halls and Gibbs high schools - won, and Heritage High School took second and Cocke County High School placed third.

The Rat Rod competition was a welding competition. Rat Rod is a newly developed name for the original hot rod-style of the early 1950s. “We let them build Rat Rods that were scale models that were 20 inches long and 12 inches wide,” Marshall said. “They could only use scrap metal, recycled steel or metal.”

In the Rat Rod welding competition, South-Doyle High School won first, Heritage High School took second and North Knox Vocational - Gibbs and Halls high schools, placed third.

John Davis III, welding teacher at Heritage High School, said his students spent a lot of time researching and preparing designs for the Rat Rod welding competition and the mailbox painting competition. “They have to bring their ideas from their minds to the metal,” he said.

Randy Byrd, collision repair teacher, with Heritage High School, said this is the first year Heritage competed in the mailbox competition. “We didn’t know what to expect,” he said. Byrd said it technically challenged the students, but it also artistically challenged them. “They enjoyed doing it,” he said.

Alex Blair, a senior, said he worked with junior Jake Garrow in designing the mailbox they submitted for the contest. “I helped him with the base coat and the clear coat,” he said, to which Garrow added he created the design and airbrushed it onto the mailbox. “It gave it an old, rough look,” he said.

James Hopkins, a senior, enjoyed the Rat Rod competition. “It’s hard putting it together,” he said. “You had to be creative but I’m glad I got to do it.”

Dylan Majors, senior, said there were no limits to what the students could create. “It is fun thinking of ideas and bringing them to life,” he said.

Marshall thanked the Air National Guard for hosting the event. Sponsors for the event included the East Tennessee Foundation, Twin City Dealerships, the Shades of the Past car club, Home Federal Bank and the Metropolitan Airport Authority.

“They’re our heroes,” Marshall said of the sponsors. “Year after year, they help us.”

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