With time running out Friday at the state finals of the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition, Frank Kranz and Thomas Mayer were stumped.
After spending more than an hour identifying and repairing a list of "bugs" that were intentionally installed in a 2014 Ford Fiesta, the two Fremd High School seniors knew there was one more problem they needed to address.
Top teamsHere are the results of the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills state contest:
1. Fremd High School, Palatine: Frank Kranz, Thomas Mayer
2. Hoffman Estates High School: Edward Pszczolkowski, Christian Ramirez
3. Willowbrook High School, Villa Park: Jonathan Brunner, Cody Panfil
Other competitors: Lockport Township High School East: Jack Parrinello, Kyle Drwal; Waterloo High School: Andrew Gotto, Braxton Herschbach; Technology Center of DuPage in Addison: Camden Murphy, Joseph Ragnanese; Elk Grove High School: Daniel Niekrasz, Brandon Perfect; Addison Trail High School: Samuel Ramos, Ryan Szabelski; Palatine High School: Cullen Kilcoyne, Charlie Davis; Indian Valley Vocational Center in Sandwich: Raymond Chapen, Bryan Shick
"But we didn't know how to fix it," Mayer said.
In a competition where every team was racing against the clock, the two Palatine residents realized they didn't have time to figure out a solution.
So about 15 minutes before the 90-minute time limit expired, Kranz and Mayer packed up their tools, got into the car and carefully drove it to an area where a team of experts inspected their work.
"We were a nervous wreck when they were judging us," Mayer said.
In the end, it didn't matter.
Kranz and Mayer beat nine other two-person teams from high schools across the state and will move on to represent Illinois in the national finals, which will be held June 8-10 at Ford World Headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan.
"I am just so happy right now," Kranz said moments after the results were announced. "When we got to judging, I thought we would get top three.
"But I didn't think we would get first place."
Second place in the competition went to Edward Pszczolkowski and Christian Ramirez from Hoffman Estates High School.
Jonathan Brunner and Cody Panfil from Willowbrook High School in Villa Park finished third.
Every student who competed during Friday's event at Universal Technical Institute in Lisle had to earn the right to be there.
The 10 teams that scored the highest in an online exam were selected to advance to the hands-on competition.
Sam Chiappetta, manager of automotive service for AAA Chicago, said he's impressed by the level of automotive knowledge the students have.
"They are still learning," he said. "But they have an understanding of today's complex vehicles. There's more computers on the vehicles now than ever."
To test the students in the hands-on competition, each team was given a Ford Fiesta to repair. Each car had 13 different faults that were intentionally installed.
Chiappetta said the problems ranged from electrical issues to mechanical problems.
The students were able to use laptops and scanners to diagnose the vehicles. Judges were on hand to provide them with any needed parts.
Other than that, the students were on their own. Their instructors couldn't provide help and had to watch from the audience.
Dave Ligman, an automotive teacher at Hoffman Estates High School, said he enjoyed seeing Pszczolkowski and Ramirez apply what they had learned.
"We put a lot of time in to prepare them," said Ligman, adding that the two students practiced daily during and after school for weeks.
During that time, they learned a great deal about the Ford Fiesta.
"They know there's a lot at stake," he said. "They put in a lot of extra time. They get more out of this than any other class they're going to take."
Pszczolkowski, who is a senior at Hoffman Estates, said he and Ramirez were able to fix the problems with the car on Friday because Ligman taught them everything they needed to know.
Still, there was a lot of pressure.
"Your heart really starts going and kind of rushing," Pszczolkowski said, "so that pretty much made it a little more difficult."
Cody Panfil said he had to get used to working next to the other teams and having an audience.
"It was a lot of pressure, but it was fun," said Panfil, who is a senior at Willowbrook.
"I love working on cars. It's something I love doing."
The state championship team was determined by combining the scores from the online exam and the hands-on competition.
So while Kranz and Mayer weren't the first team to finish their car, they had the highest overall score. Now they're focusing on the national competition.
"We have a lot of training to do," Mayer said.