Auto Mechanics Courses at NHS

Auto Mechanics Courses at NHS
Posted on 09/12/2018
Auto Mechanics Courses at NHS

The instruction sounds the same, but the classroom – in this case, a large, automotive garage – is like few others at Nacogdoches High School.

“If I look down inside and it looks like coffee, is that good?” NHS auto tech instructor Aaron Cabaniss asked while Auto 2 class checked the brake fluid reservoir on a late model Camaro SS.

“No,” the class responded, while going over a 36-point run-through on the car.

Students in the automotive program work their way through three courses offered in the Career and Technical Education department at the high school: Auto Basics, Auto 1 and Auto 2.

“Guys, this is exactly how it’s done at the dealerships,” Cabaniss had said earlier, after the students had changed into their uniforms and gathered in a small classroom adjacent to the garage located at the back of Nacogdoches High School. Auto 2 is part of a wide-range of CTE-related classes offered at NHS.

For students interested in auto mechanics, Auto Basics is where everything starts, focusing mostly on vehicle ownership and personal maintenance. The next class, Auto 1, Cabaniss said, is a hybrid that works with both two-cycle and four-cycle engines, where students learn how to repair everything from lawn mowers to cars.

“The auto mechanic classes, like many of our CTE courses, reaches students where they’re at,” said Don Hasley, NISD’s Director of Career and Technical Education. “The courses prepare students to be ready to take the next step following graduation.”

While students gathered in the classroom, Cabaniss held in his hand a form that included a maintenance checklist recommended by Ford Motor Co., an example of the relationships established with Nacogdoches garages by the Career & Technical Education department at NHS.

“We are truly fortunate to have such caring professionals in this community, and they certainly deserve any and all acknowledgment,” Cabaniss said.

That includes service directors at auto dealerships, including Ronnie Coates at Tipton Ford; Jay Choate at Gound Chevrolet; Mark Mitchell at Mike Perry Motor Co.; and Scott Parrish and Brian West at Scott’s Automotive.

That group also includes Kelly Pool, the equipment technical training manager for Blue Mountain Equipment, the company that oversees Stihl dealerships in Texas. Pool arranged for the NHS program to receive Stihl tools for repairs, which allows students to train using equipment normally only found at dealerships and authorized shops.

“Mr. Cabaniss has gone out and set up these connections with dealerships and garages around town,” Hasley said. “The relationships are a valuable investment into our school district and our students.”

For NHS principal Dr. Rom Crespo, auto mechanics classes are one more example of the wide array of courses offered at the school.

“There are so many educational opportunities available for our students,” Crespo said. “Many folks would be amazed at all we have to offer here.”

Cabaniss came to NHS in 2017 after four years as a team lead technician at Foretravel of Texas in Nacogdoches. His wife, Jamie, is a kindergarten teacher at Thomas J. Rusk Elementary School.

On a warm Wednesday afternoon, students methodically checked fluid levels, hoses, and measured air pressure in tires. The car’s owner allowed the class to take a look at his vehicle, providing students a chance to diagnose a hard start condition that had cropped up, Cabaniss said.

The first thing students were directed to do was conduct the exhaustive examination of the vehicle. “Why is this important?” Cabaniss asked the class while initiating a once-over of the vehicle. “To build trust,” said Josh Williams, a junior.

That’s correct, Cabaniss said, and it’s also practical, he added later. Today’s automobiles are more complex than ever, with vital systems controlled or monitored by computerized systems hardwired directly into the vehicle. Cabaniss said he was directing students to begin to view cars they look at “as a whole.” By doing that, he said, students can more accurately identify problems in autos instead of mainly treating symptoms.

“If we don’t, we might overlook the problem,” Cabaniss said.

For these students, what’s taking place early in the semester amounts to a review of things learned the previous year.

“Why is it important to put a pressure cap back on securely?” Cabaniss asked after a check was completed of fluid levels in the car’s coolant system.

“So it builds pressure back up,” Brandon Henson correctly answered. And when the coolant, properly filled, is placed under pressure, the boiling point of the liquid rises, Cabaniss said.

Over the course of the examination, Josh inspected hoses under the hood while Gonzado Escobar slid behind the wheel and checked out the cold air blowing from the vents and tested brake lights and turn signals. Rafael Rivera watched from behind, gesturing for a right turn signal, then a left. Others topped off the air pressure in the tires and use a tool to gauge treadwear.

Students wear uniforms while the garage, complete with their names and a NISD Dragon logo. It’s all part of an effort by Cabaniss to lend professionalism to the class, preparing students for what to expect following graduation.

Just as important, establishing relationships with Nacogdoches-area garages will benefit students that go through the NHS auto mechanics program. “The goal is that when they graduate, these kids will already have contacts made in the automobile industry,” Cabaniss said.


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