Marshall Kohl looks through the engine of a John Deere tractor with a tiny flashlight while chomping on his gum and working with his teammate to figure out why it won’t start.
Wearing a John Deere hat and lime-green hoodie, Tanner Engle, a Penta Career Center senior who lives in Bowling Green, turns the key but the ignition won't start.
“Cut it,” Marshall says. “Did you check the throttle? And start position?”
The two friends finally got the tractor started in their first station of five during the 20th annual FFA District I Agricultural and Industrial Diagnostics Contest at Owens Community College recently on the college’s Perrysburg Township campus.
Two judges watch their every move, as well as the 25-minute clock the competitors get per station.
“It was really fun,” Tanner said. “I liked it a lot, hanging out and with Marshall working together.”
During the contest, two-person teams were tasked to locate, identify, and repair tractor problems. A judges’ panel, including industry representatives and faculty from the college’s Transportation Technologies Center, assessed students’ expertise.
The competing teams were chosen to participate based on scores from a written exam.
Marshall, a Penta student who lives in Perrysburg, and Tanner both want to enroll in Owens’ Caterpillar program that allows students to work with the latest Caterpillar equipment to train them as construction equipment service technicians.
Heath Weilnau, an Owens instructor, put together the stations of four tractors and a forklift. Each machine had two problems with it, and the students were judged by how they diagnosed the problem, fixed it, and stayed safe.
“The teams work hard for this,” Mr. Weilnau said. “They spend a lot of hours after school training.”
The Woodmore High School team of Hunter Haar and Jacob Rothert and the Elmwood High team of Casey Heller and Jon Shinew tied for first place with a score of 278.
Using combined exam scores, the District FFA determined Elmwood was the winning team and will travel to Lima, Ohio, for the state finals March 7 and 8.
Woodmore was second. Penta was third.
“This year’s competition was difficult,” said Jim Gilmore, Owens’ chairman of diesel and welding technologies. “However, the students once again rose to the challenge and certainly showcased their knowledge and skills specific to the agricultural industry.”
Originally, 13 teams signed up to compete but only seven were able to make it because of bad weather.
Owens provided a tractor and forklift, and the other tractors were provided by area businesses Streacker Tractor Sales, Crosby Equipment, and Eagle Machinery Inc.
“It went good, some of the problems were realistic and some not so much,” said Bill Potter, an Otsego High School student. “They are things you may encounter though.”
Bill’s Otsego teammate, Ben Thomas, said he sees some similar problems on his farm. Ben wants to attend Owens and become a mechanic.
Bill hopes to attend Bowling Green State University and major in business before attending law school at the University of Toledo. He wants to be a lawyer who specializes in cases involving agriculture.
“It helped a lot living on a farm,” Bill said, explaining how his real-world experience helped him in the competition.
Teams from other high schools that competed were Wauseon, Bowling Green, and Ayersville.
“Me and Tanner really enjoyed it,” Marshall said. “We worked together and he would be doing something and while I was doing something else trying to figure out the problems.”