San Marcos High School seniors Robbie Behlman, Christian Mkpado and Manuel Medina have qualified for the Ford/AAA Auto Skills State Championship.

The students will take part in a 90-minute, hands-on competition May 6 in Pomona with the winner attending the national championship in June.

This is a nationwide competition for 11th- and 12th-grade students in secondary schools and colleges (serving local high schools) that offer courses in automotive technology and have at least one full-time or part-time automotive instructor. Schools may enter one team per instructor, and the instructors select their best 11th- or 12th-grade auto technology students to take the online state qualifying exam.

The Royals were one of the top 10 teams scoring the highest on the state qualifying exam, thus moving on to the state championship.

“We are excited we qualified for state and look forward to competing,“ Behlman said.

In the state competition, vehicles are uniformly “bugged” so that each team has identical malfunctions to diagnose and repair. The competition requires repairs to be made with the highest quality workmanship in the lowest total time. This year’s vehicle is the 2012 Ford Mustang Premium with a 3.7L V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transmission with manual climate control.

The winning team from each state and their instructor are provided expense-paid trips to the national finals in June. At the national competition, each member of the 50 state teams will take a written exam. Errors on the written exams are converted into time demerits that are added to the team’s time for the “hands-on” mechanical competition in both the state and national competitions.

Each vehicle in the national hands-on competition is supervised by a team judge who supplies new parts upon request. When a team believes it has returned its vehicle to normal working order, the hood is closed, signaling the timer to stop the team’s clock. The team and its judge then take the vehicle on a short road test. The team may then return the vehicle to its work area for further diagnosis and repair, or proceed to final judging.

The team with the fewest quality-of-workmanship demerits and the best combined total score of repair time and written exam scores will be declared the winner.

In 2010, 958 instructors and more than 12,000 of their students competed in the Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills competition for honors and prizes worth $11.4 million.

— Aaron Solis is the activities director for San Marcos High School.