There is no such thing as idle time, at least not for five students at the Burton Center for Arts & Technology in Salem. In half of the time it takes to watch a sitcom, the team can tear apart and reassemble a small block Chevy engine.
It is national championship-level impressive. The Hot Rodders of Tomorrow team, led by automotive instructor Steve Hoback, is currently ranked 13th out of 150 teams in the nation, and on Nov. 3, they will make a three-day trip to Los Vegas to prove they are the best team in the land.
According to Hoback, it typically takes the team about 18 minutes to complete the task, and they are only allowed to use hand tools. There is no trick, just a lot of hard work.
“They’ve been together about a year, practicing several nights a week,” Hoback said. “This is my fifth year, and I feel like they can make it all the way to first place. They’ve certainly worked hard and work well enough together where I think they have a good shot.”
At practice, they work to pull the motor apart piece by piece before hustling to put it back together. Then they do it all over again—and again.
The school’s Hot Rodders of Tomorrow team consists of Glenvar High School student Austin Martin, Cave Spring student Carter Lawrence, Northside student Samuel Hurt, and William Byrd students Alex Bradford and Braydan Dorren.
Much like the pieces of the engine they work to assemble, every member is essential, with each focusing on a specific task.
“Each one has a role,” Hoback said. “The tool person is actually one of the most important jobs. He’s the guy that’s organized and has to be ready. He knows what they need to before they come over and get it.”
At the national championship, they will be judged not only on their quickness, but also on the quality of their work. To rid themselves nervous jitters, the type that comes with performing in front of thousands of people, the team has travelled to local shows to get a feel for crowds.
The most exciting aspect for the group is the potential scholarship money each member could win. Martin, who already works part-time at a car shop in Salem, competed in nationals last year, and set the record twice with his team. He said the experience was a game changer for him, and he will soon be attending Ohio Technical College.
“It allowed me to come home with a lot of scholarship money,” he said. “It was a big mind changer in whether I was going to school or not. I want to go to school for a diesel tech.”
Martin said since he has a different task this year, his skills are now more well-rounded.
“It’s allowed me to learn more ways and quicker ways to get the engine disassembled and put back together,” Martin said. “I can help the other team members. We communicate well, and we’ve learned what each person can do before they even do it.”
Right now, the team is still raising money for their trip. To support them, contact Steve Hoback at Burton, (540) 857-5000. The team is also seeking sponsorships from local businesses.