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South Iredell's Paul Castle (second from left) and Austin Chambers (second from right) were the recipients of a $5,000 scholarship following a third-place finish in a recent competition. At left is Hank Powell of NASCAR Technical Institute and at right is the instructor for the team, Justin Bennett.

A pair of South Iredell students finished third in the Top Tech Challenge competition at the NASCAR Technical Institute recently.

Paul Castle and Austin Chambers, representing South Iredell High School, each received a $5,000 scholarship for their efforts. Their instructor was Justin Bennett.

NIT, Universal Technical Institute’s Mooresville campus, welcomed students from around the Charlotte region to compete for a total of $59,000 in scholarships. The students used in-demand automotive technology skills and knowledge in the competition.

A total of 23 teams from North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee went head-to-head at the campus, competing in both hands-on and written tests on vehicle parts, brakes, diagnostics and electrical systems, using NASCAR’s state-of the-art industry facility and equipment.

The top three teams, which included South Iredell, walked away with a Snap-On tool set for their school.

“It is incredibly valuable for high school students to have the opportunity to develop these skills in automotive technology, and we always look forward to celebrating their achievements,” said Jennifer Bergeron, campus president at NASCAR Technical Institute.

“We have been hosting the Top Tech Challenge competition for a decade now, and each time I’m impressed by students’ breadth and depth of knowledge. It’s also been exciting to see the competition grow as more students become aware of the career opportunities available in the automotive industry.”

Recently, the federal government has tripled its estimate for the number of transportation technicians needed nationwide by 2026. Based on projection, there will be more than 1.2 million job openings in the automotive, diesel and collision repair industries.

To help reach that total, the transportation industry will have to fill more than 120,000 technician job openings annually on average.

The first-place team was comprised of Blake Holbrooks and Devin Fruendt of Clover High School in Clover, South Carolina. Second place was the Hamilton Career Center in Seneca, South Carolina. Team members were Jason Evans and Dominic Sanford and the instructor was Jeremy Davis.

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