SEMA News - February 2010

By Annie Kang

High-School Students Showcase Their Engine Skills and Passion at the 2009 SEMA Show



With a time of 44.22, Team Fel-Pro from Joliet Central High School won the first-ever Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge—the Showdown at SEMA.

With the clock ticking and under intense pressure, four teams of high-school students pitted their skills against each other as they disassembled and rebuilt high-performance Chevy 350 engines at the first-ever Hot Rodders of Tomorrow Engine Challenge. Team Fel-Pro from Joliet Central High School in Joliet, Illinois, won the competition, held at the 2009 SEMA Show, with a time of 44.22.

“Competing at the SEMA Show was really intense, but we blocked it all out and kept to the task,” said Team Fel-Pro member Patrick McCarney. “We were really well-composed, and we went to win.”

Each member of the team, which included Timothy Covarrubia, Brandon W. Gable, James Seeley, Kevin Smith and Jacob Strom, was awarded a $10,000 scholarship from Ohio Technical College (OTC) and a $10,000 scholarship from the University of Northwestern Ohio (UNOH).

With a time of 56:54, championship opponent Team MSD from Elkhart Area Career Center (Elkhart, Indiana) was awarded individual $7,500 scholarships from OTC and UNOH. Eliminated in the qualifying round, Team Hedman Hedders from Loara High School (Anaheim, California) had the third-best time, and its members received $5,000 each from both institutions. The colleges also provided $2,500 scholarships to Team Edelbrock from Van Buren Tech Center (Lawrence, Michigan). OTC and UNOH awarded a total of $250,000 in scholarships to the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow finalists.

The competition required the four teams to remove all of an engine’s parts, excluding the camshaft and crankshaft. The engines then had to be reassembled, with penalties added for mishaps, such as dropped components, improper disassembly or any breakages. The reassembled engines had to be capable of firing up and running if gas, water and oil were to be added.

“This event allowed the students to work with an engine and get it up and running, which is the dream of every young man or woman in auto shop,” said Tim Freeman, founder of Hot Rodders of Tomorrow. “Also, being at the SEMA Show for the first time opened their eyes to the many different avenues that are available to them. They won’t be stuck in just one part of the specialty-equipment industry.”

Jacob Strom of Team Fel-Pro is the perfect example of what Freeman hoped for when he conceptualized the Showdown at SEMA.

“I’ve always had an interest in the automotive industry but never knew how truly awesome it all is,” said Strom. “This event showed me just how generous these companies and the people who run them are. It has been inspiring to be a part of this, and I hope to one day have a place at the SEMA Show.”


Judging for the challenge was based on fastest time, with penalties added for such mishaps as dropped parts, breakages and improper disassembly or assembly.

Each of the four teams was selected from previous Hot Rodders of Tomorrow events held throughout early- to mid-2009.

“This is our way of bringing youth to SEMA every year and to the specialty-equipment industry—that’s the purpose of this event,” said Jim Bingham, chairman of Hot Rodders of Tomorrow. “A lot of us in the industry have been in it for a long time, and we need to get the youth involved so that we can keep growing.”

The first Hot Rodders of Tomorrow challenge was held in Illinois at the inaugural Race & Performance Expo in March 2008 as an exhibition event. Bingham said that more than 96 high schools have signed on for the 2010 year to participate in five scheduled Hot Rodders of Tomorrow events.

“There is no competitive event in high-school auto shops like there is for football,” said Bingham. “What we are providing are competitive events for these young lads and ladies, and it is really exciting to watch them. I can see them one day working for manufacturers, race teams or distributors.”

With all the enthusiasm garnered by the first Showdown at SEMA, Freeman is hopeful about the possibility of planning another Hot Rodders of Tomorrow challenge at the 2010 SEMA Show.

“This was history in the making, as it was the first Hot Rodders of Tomorrow event at the national level,” said Freeman. “The industry response was overwhelming, and the international attendees—folks from Australia and Canada—just thought it was fantastic. It would be great to see that again.”




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