Austin Gatt, from Medina, Ohio, is the September 2020 Continental Student of the Month, presented by Tomorrow’s Technician and Continental Belts and Hose. Austin recently graduated from the Medina County Career Center and began his college career as a Ford Asset Student at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, OH. He’s known as a leader in the classroom and a skilled, inquisitive technician even at his young age.
Austin, how did you first get started on this path in the automotive industry?
As a kid I had very little interest in playing sports – I was always very bad at playing any sport and still am. I was also a few years behind on technology when compared to my friends – when I received a flip phone they all had the latest iPhone. Though that made me feel left out as a kid, now I’m glad that I didn’t have it.
I also didn’t have video games growing up, but I was given a broken leaf blower by my grandpa. I had no idea what I was looking at but I was determined to learn how this thing worked – it all started from there. With countless guessing at why this little two-stroke wouldn’t run, I was able to slowly teach myself how small engines worked.
Memorizing patterns as I played with broken equipment. I then continued experimenting with small engines, learning what was “wrong” by breaking them. The more I experimented, the more I wanted to learn. I then began to modify the small two-strokes to push them to their limits, spending hours on a forty dollar piece of plastic and metal.
Eventually, I started to question why we just use gasoline to power an engine? Why couldn’t compressed air be used? I then built three different engines that ran off an air compressor, which I was proud of, only later learning from the internet that others had done it too.
When the opportunity to check out my local career center came along, I found that the automotive technology program gave me the most room to grow; frankly, small engines were getting a little old. The fact that I needed to learn more inspired me to take the class.
The Medina County Career Center combines students from several different neighboring school districts. When you started, did it take you awhile to get comfortable in your new situation?
After a few weeks in the class, class office re-elections were closing in and I just knew I had to be the class president. I felt confident that I could do it, and no one else really wanted too anyway. Being a class leader was a fun experience that I will never forget and I encourage anyone to try it.
As class president, I was more than happy to help other students with bookwork or hands-on projects. Teaching my classmates was the most rewarding part of being a class leader. Trying to pinpoint one of my favorite projects is something that I’ll never nail down. Most of the time I enjoy what I do and work on and the biggest part is looking back at what I’ve done and hopefully watching it work as it should.
Understanding and leading is one thing – understanding and applying is something totally different. You were active with skills competition in school – how was that experience?
My favorite part of going to the Medina County Career Center was the SkillsUSA competitions. Regionals my first year was a very intimidating event. I knew that everyone else was in my same shoes for the most part, despite the fact that I was the only junior at the regional competition. I was very nervous, and many of the other competitors gave me a look like “What is this KID doing here?” After doing the stations, which were very similar to some of the stations I did in class, my confidence was growing.
When the third and second place winners were announced, my heart sank as I just knew there was no way that I won. But I did! First place at regionals, competing against seniors? I’ll take that!
The state level was a totally different environment. The energy that was in the Columbus Convention Center was just insane; even better, I had my best friend with me.
Again, third and second place were called without hearing my name and I was disappointed again. I assumed that there was no way of me winning gold, so I was shocked when my name was called for gold! I screamed YEAHHH! and got on stage, nervous as hell with my awkward smile. All I could see was bright lights – well, that and a trip to the SkillsUSA nationals competition.
The National competition was very difficult, as it should be. My tendency to overthink everything I do was not helping my case at all. After the eight-hour competition, I was spent. I ended up taking 17th out of 49 at Nationals as a junior. Did I want to do better? You bet.
My Senior year was going to be the year that I was going to win gold at Nationals. Covid-19 put a very very fast end to that dream.
Still, it was pretty succesful – I won many different scholarships at these competitions, too many to name off hand.
You obviously had some unfinished business in high school and we’re disappointed for you. How have you moved on? What’s going on in your world now?
My future plans are still not clear, as there are tons of different roads I can take. One career goal is to have a patent with my name on it. I can’t imagine that not happening.
I would love to be an automotive engineer or design my own engine, or vehicle. The fact that someone’s last name is on a vehicle, like Ford or Cummins just blows my mind – to be honest, I want “Gatt” on a vehicle or engine.
Austin’s instructor, Darin Lewis has high praise for Austin.
Austin has an incredible passion for automotive repair. Not only was he an A student in high school but he was a great representative for our school as a junior at the regional, state and national conferences. Earlier this year he won gold at regional again and would have been heading to State.
Austin also won 2nd place as a junior and 1st place as a senior in the Greater Cleveland Automotive Dealers Association Automotive Technology Contest.
Austin keeps himself busy working at a local Ford dealer and is now attending Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland, Ohio as a Ford Asset Student. He is involved with FFA and his church and I was proud to nominate him for Continental’s Student of the Month.
To nominate a student for the Continental Student of the Month program, visit TomorrowsTechnician.com/student-of-the-month/.