BY BEATRICE DUPUY
On the outskirts of the Cooper City High School campus lies a path that many students have never taken; this path does not lead to a classroom filled with students who are half asleep, instead it leads to another world, a world most students have never ventured into, the working world. The students who work in this environment are not daydreaming about life after high school because they’re already living it. They’re able to practice their skills everyday at school and turn them into a future profession. These proactive students belong to automotive technology (auto tech), a class that allows students to jump right from high school and straight into the professional world.
This hands on class at CCHS has successfully been running for 22 years and teacher Dan Sorrentino has watched it grow from the beginning.
“I enjoy working here and sharing my experiences with the students even though they don’t realize how valuable it is to them at their age,” Sorrentino said.
Sorrentino has had years of experience working with cars; therefore, the process to become an auto tech teacher naturally fell into place. Sorrentino spent his time before becoming a teacher as a crew chief for a professional road racing team and for a Pro Offshore powerboat team. He has competed in the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours of Daytona competitions. He also owns an auto shop, which he has been managing for eight years.
Sorrentino uses his vast knowledge to provide students with the opportunity to compete in competitions of their own. This year, junior Noel Thomas and senior Matan Asoulin competed in one of two competitions in which auto tech students take part. In order for Thomas and Asoulin to qualify, each of them had to take an exam.
“I was nervous at first but when the clock started, we had to do our thing,” Asoulin said.
At the Ford/AAA competition in Faribault High School, Minnesota, the students were told to completely fix a car back to its normal condition after it had been purposely altered. This was hard at times but Asoulin and Thomas pulled through with a victory for CCHS by winning third place out of all of the other students competing in the U.S.
“I learned not to over-think things since the hardest problems are solved by the simplest things,” Thomas said.
Auto tech students spend two periods of their school day in the auto tech building, where they’re either learning about cars or working on them. Many of the cars auto tech receives are often donated from other schools or neighborhood friends. However, most of these cars are not in the best shape, which makes the challenge more enjoyable for these students.
In total, auto tech has 6 levels each more advanced than the next. CCHS students must complete each level, 900 hours, in order to become a “technician assistant.” A technician assistant must fulfill the duties of a mechanic’s helper who has been trained in basic shop operation.
During each level of auto tech, students are taught the eight major areas of an automobile. These areas range from the brakes of the car to the engine performance. But before the students have a chance to get underneath the hood of any car, Sorrentino must convey the overall importance of safety. Safety is priority in auto tech. Throughout the first two weeks of school, auto tech students learn the significance of safety when dealing with such heavy machinery.
Auto tech may be portrayed as a male dominated elective; however, four girls at CCHS have removed this stereotypical label.
“I thought it would be helpful to know, when I don’t have a man around to fix my car,” senior Alene Rodriquez said.
Most of Sorrentino’s students use the knowledge they have obtained from his class to pursue a job in the automobile industry. These auto tech alumni can be found working around South Florida, still using the useful skills Sorrentino taught them during their years of auto tech.
“I definitely plan on using this information in the future,” Asoulin said.
Auto tech is a learning experience that many students at CCHS miss out on. It’s an experience that will last in the memories of all the auto tech students. These memories are undoubtedly different from other CCHS students, because everyday these students will leave their class with a sense of accomplishment rather than loads of homework, even if that satisfaction involves sweat ridden clothes and greasy hands. The overall sensation of hearing the engine purring after it has been coughing the whole day makes the whole process worthwhile.