SEMA News—December 2019

By Fredy Ramirez


Hot Rodders of Tomorrow

Investing in the Future of the Automotive Industry

Teams of five competed in the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow’s new circuit challenge last year, where participating students must complete circuits, fix problems and pass a 10-question test.

The future seems bright for the 41 high-school teams competing to be a part of the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow (HROT) Engine Challenge Elite Eight playoff rounds. The finalists last year secured $3.78 million in scholarships. The competition gives students the opportunity to begin careers in the automotive industry; scholarships are just one of the benefits. During the competition, they are exposed to potential future employers and industry experts at a young age. That opens the door to various opportunities in the automotive trade.

Road to the Show

Over a period of four months starting in March, students from different high schools across the country competed for spots at the SEMA Show and the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show, where the Dual National Championships are held. Some 13 qualifying events were held in more than 11 different states. A pool of 41 teams out of 154 qualified this year to go to the Dual National Championships. Some of those teams have competed at the SEMA Show, while the rest will compete at the PRI Trade Show in December. The top four from each competition then qualify to the six-round playoff of the Elite Eight, where the champion is crowned.

Students from 11 different states enter the competition, with some competing at the SEMA Show and the others at the PRI Trade Show.

The Competition

The objective for the qualifying rounds is to deconstruct and reconstruct a crate engine to factory specifications in under 120 min., with the fastest time being the winner. Teams of five work together to accomplish the goal, with four of the members working on the engine while the fifth captains the team from the bench. Each team is monitored by a group of judges to ensure that the engine is built properly and deduct points for improper build procedures. During the Elite Eight, teams’ times are averaged over the three times they assemble and disassemble the engine. They are also judged on a 50-question test on parts, tools and general identification knowledge.

Another competition is the HROT Junior Engine Challenge. Kids ages 5–15 are able to participate now, getting their hands on a Briggs & Stratton engine. This is a newly expanding area for HROT that seems to show great promise. The kids have a chance to get away from their phones and get their hands on real engines.

Teams of five construct and deconstruct a crate engine in a timed event. Only four of the five work on the engine; the fifth captains the team.


SAM Tech, Universal Technical Institute, the University of Northwestern Ohio and Ohio Technical College partner with HROT to offer scholarship opportunities to those who qualify for the Dual National Championships. Last year, those institutions offered more than $4.2 million in scholarship opportunities. Companies throughout the industry, including SEMA, sponsor the competition through multiple avenues. Whether they sponsor an event or a team, the investment is in the future of the industry.

The History

The first Hot Rodders of Tomorrow started in 2008 with five high-school teams competing. Over the years, participation and sponsorships have steadily increased, with about 1,000 teams entering and more than 60 different sponsors supporting the endeavor. Most importantly, more than $20 million in scholarship opportunities have been pledged to the future of the students, who may one day lead the automotive industry.

HROT clubs can now be found in high schools across the country. For more information about the organization and how to get involved, visit You can also call or email Rodney Bingham, and he can help to get you started. Contact information can be found on the Hot Rodders of Tomorrow website’s “Contact Us” page.

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