Like Father like Son…in their automotive skills

Two Maui High School seniors who won a state automotive skills competition over the weekend both thanked their fathers who groomed them into becoming great auto mechanics.

Chayce Mimura and Devin Vea captured the 2014 Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills State Competition at Honolulu Community College on Saturday. Maui High School has a long history of winning state titles and has numerous times represented Hawaii at the national competition.

Mimura said he’s been around an auto mechanics shop for years because his father, Todd, is the owner of Ekahi Automotive Center in Wailuku.

“I’ve been in there pretty much since the time I was born,” the 19-year-old Mimura said this week.

As Mimura got older, his school breaks consisted of going to his father’s shop to learn about auto mechanics.

For 17-year-old Vea, his father, too, taught him the ropes of fixing cars.

His father, Randall, used to restore cars at his home, and Vea learned auto mechanics “mostly from him.”

With the help of Maui High School’s automotive program, both Mimura and Vea got more experience and the chance to shine at the state and now the national levels. They will compete in the auto skills national finals to be held in Dearborn, Mich., in June. They will match their auto skills against student teams from 50 states for the national title and nearly $12 million in college scholarships and prizes.

“They have been good from the start. I think they did as good as we expected,” said the students’ coach and teacher Neill Nakamura. “Definitely, they performed well.”

Nakamura couldn’t be with his students Saturday because he was out of state assisting with Maui High School’s robotics team. However, Nakamura will join Mimura and Vea at the national competition.

Former Lahainaluna High School automotive teacher Dennis Sasai, who now works as a resource teacher with the state Department of Education Office on Maui, assisted Nakamura’s team Saturday.

In this past weekend’s competition, Mimura and Vea were able to successfully solve all the issues with a “pre-bugged” car.

This year the competition was a bit trickier, said Maui High School automotive teacher Shannon Rowe, who also traveled with another set of students to the competition.

Both Rowe and Nakamura said that on the students’ repair order, that mimicked an actual automotive center situation, the “pretend” customer requested that the frequency of his lane change turn signal indication light be altered. The car is able to be programed to either speed up or slow down the turn signal light.

Both Vea and Mimura said they never had to deal with a similar request.

“It’s something we never had to try and fix before,” Mimura said.

But the seniors were able to adhere to the customer’s request with ease and easily handle the stress of competition.

“In the beginning, I was a little bit nervous, but after a while it came easier,” Mimura said.

Vea agreed, saying that after a while he and Mimura were able to focus on the task at hand “and we got used to it; it wasn’t too bad.”

In order for the students to qualify for the competition, they took an online skills test in February.

Saturday’s winner was decided by the combination of their scores on the online test and the hands-on competition.

In addition to Mimura and Vea, Maui High School had two other students who competed in Saturday’s competition, they were Jahstyn Aweau and Cameo-Noel Kusunoki, who took second place.

King Kekaulike High School was the other Maui County school to compete.

Led by teacher Petar Kovacic, students Brian Amoral and Matthew Meyer, placed third.

Another King Kekaulike High School team, led by teacher Matt Doty, placed sixth. Students on the team were Jack Klingman and Jerami Rother.

Kovacic said Amoral and Meyer actually finished finding all of the bugs in the car before any other teams but fell out of the top two spots because of workmanship demerits that included scratches on headlights and issues with a hood latch.

Aiea and Waimea high schools also competed.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at mailto: