by Mike Knaak
After proving his automotive know-how in a national automotive knowledge and skills contest, Nick Martel is sure he wants to pursue a career in automotive technology.
“I decided this is the direction for the rest of my life,” Martel said.
Martel, a senior at Sartell High School, earned a trip to the National Automotive Technology Competition in New York City April 22-26.
After graduation this spring, he plans to pursue automotive technology at St. Cloud Technical & Community College. He’s the son of Tracy Karl and Brian Martel.
Finishing first in a state competition in January launched Martel to the national contest along with another area student, Jacob Onofrey, a senior at Apollo High School. The two competed as a team in New York.
The New York contest took place alongside the New York International Auto Show at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan.
The four-day trip included two days of tests. The workstation challenge, on Day 1, tested knowledge of tools, measuring instruments, specific vehicle components and job interview skills.
On Day 2, the two-person team had three hours to diagnose and repair a number of preassigned problems under a car’s hood.
Before arriving at the contest, contestants learned the make and model of the vehicle they’d need to diagnose. Martel drew a Nissan Rouge and he spent weekly sessions learning about the SUV’s systems and mechanics from the pros at Miller Auto’s service department.
Martel said the hardest bugs to find are those in the vehicle’s electronics and computer systems. He said he easily spotted the missing jack, but figuring out which electronics modules weren’t talking to each other was a bigger challenge. The team finished 17th against teams from across the nation.
Martel managed to work in sight-seeing too. He explored the lights of Broadway, sampled ethnic food and attended a comedy club.
“It was the greatest experience of my life,” he said.
While Martell says he’s not “super competitive,” he likes to show what he knows and what he can do.
“The contests show that you really understand what you’ve learned,” he said. “You can show that you know what you’re talking about.”
Martel says he’s always liked cars, but when he was about 14, “it just clicked” that he wanted to pursue an automotive career. He had also considered a career in computer science.
Martel has taken two auto classes at Sartell High School as well as classes at the Tech College’s Discovery Academy.
Martel has worked on Sartell’s super-mileage cars for the annual contest at Brainerd International Raceway to see who can build a car with the highest gas mileage.
Martel’s current car isn’t a super-miler, but a 2003 Acura RSX Type S, a silver two-door coupe with a spoiler on the tail.
“This car gets me from Point A to Point B,” he said.