The 2008 National Automotive Technology Competition, held March 25-26 in Manhattan during the New York International Auto Show, is the top of the high school automotive academic ladder for Adityanand "Randy" Persaud of Hollis and Andrew Defreitas of South Ozone Park, both of whom are 17-year-old seniors at Edison."I've always liked cars since I was little. I had these Hot Wheels that a lady gave me, and I kept them in a tool box," said Defreitas.Unlike with the toys, which required no maintenance, he and Persaud now face two days' worth of cars with problems. The 18-year-old competition is organized by the Greater New York Automobile Dealers Association, a trade association in Whitestone, and is the culmination of months of training plus earlier contests at the regional and state levels.They will spend one day working on a car with strategically placed computer and mechanical "bugs" to see how well they diagnose and solve problems, and the second day at workstations where they will get 15 minutes each to fix alignment, show off their precision measurement skills, and repair brakes and the like."We have a limited time to learn it all. Once we start training we know what we need to do and the procedures," Defreitas said. "Some stations are similar to what we've done, but others are new."They started out as members of an eight-member team under the supervision of teachers Barry Roopnarine and James Massa. Persaud and Defreitas are the last two standing."The hardest part is having to sit and wait" after completing the work, to find out how well we did, Persaud said.The competition has been stiff: Out of 18,000 schools competing so far, Persaud and Defreitas took sixth place and a bronze medal finish to advance to the top tier.Among the prizes are a Pontiac Solstice to be delivered to the winners upon completion of their secondary education or a scholarship to automotive school, which can otherwise cost $30,000 to $40,000, Roopnarine said."They have to maintain academic standards: They have to be passing their classes," Roopnarine said. "We encourage these guys to advance their education, get into some kind of college."Neither of the team members seemed all that nervous about the competition."Precision measurement - it's a lot [to do] but it's easy," Persaud said. The hardest workstation is for alignment, he said.Defreitas disagreed. "Learning a new car, learning the software" is tougher, he said.Asked if they saw the movie "Grease," about the automotive program at the fictitious Rydell High, they gave blank looks."We're going through another industrial revolution. Nobody sees it, but we are," Massa said. "The days of picking up a hammer or a wrench are over."Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodo
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