Category Archives: Automotive

Racing Toward a Bright Future

Parkland graduate Kyle Bemount is going places, FAST! Bemount, who earned his associate’s degree in Industrial Technology in 2011, is making a name for himself, both in racing circles and through the efforts of his business, Bemount Performance. I recently caught up with him and we talked about his experiences at Parkland, including his role as a part-time instructor, in addition to his ventures outside of school.

 

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T: What did you study at Parkland?
K: I originally enrolled in the Industrial Technology program at Parkland in the fall of 2008, right after I got out of the Marine Corps. I wanted to do welding and fabricating and that sort of thing. I had some hands-on experience and liked it, so I wanted to further educate myself.

T:  Thank you for your service! Where did your degree in Industrial Technology lead you?
K: While I was earning that degree, I also worked pretty much full time at my stepdad’s shop, painting and fabricating. When I graduated, I used the tools I learned and kept heading in that direction. I had never really given motorsports a chance to reach out and grab me. Then, Parkland built the new facility, and I was here for a car show and thought maybe it was worth checking out. I scheduled a meeting with Jon (Ross, director of the automotive program) and he gave me all the information I needed. I liked what he had to say, so I decided to try for another degree in Automotive Motorsport technology.

T: Where did your interests outside of Parkland take you?
K: I finished the motorsport classes, and it was a year ago, almost to the day, that I made the decision to open my own business. I do have a passion for working on cars and making them go faster, and working on FRIENDS’ cars especially is what has led me to this! Last October, I moved to a shop in Champaign, at 4102 Colleen Drive off of Staley Road.

T: Did your Industrial Technology training come together with the auto training?
K: It all kind of pieced the puzzle together. You might have previous car experience or have a relationship with someone who taught you about cars, and there’s nothing wrong with that. I had it too; I was already into cars and I had a fast vehicle, but there were a lot of gaps. I would be in class with Jon going over wheels and tires or brakes and suspension or something, and I would think I knew it, but by the end of class, I’d be like, “I didn’t know ANYTHING about that!” Parkland’s instruction bridges a lot of gaps for people who haven’t been taught in a structured manner like a classroom environment. You aren’t going to get that know-how by working on one specific vehicle. Here, you’re taught that this is how they all work and the situation dictates which one you can use it on.

T: You get a good, broad understanding of why this works, and that can help you diagnose whatever rolls into your shop?
K: Exactly. You need to crawl before you can walk. A lot of times, I ran before I even walked! I went right into it and did it. I got lucky and made it work, but if someone asked me a generic question about it, I might know the answer. Now, I try to be more able to find you a basic answer.

T: Was your Marine Corps training related to mechanics at all?
K: In no way, shape or form! I was an infantry marine.

T: You were a ground pounder?
K: I did infantry and security work. I had an option to become a police officer when I got out, but I really didn’t want to do it. I wanted to do something I was really passionate about.

T: You’ve started Bemount Performance, and from that the race car came about?
K: I actually bought that car when I was still stationed in Okinawa. I had my mom go to Missouri and pick it up. I had it for months before I even saw it! I had it all through industrial tech school, all through my motorsport classes.

T: What car are we talking about here?
K: It’s a 2000 Trans Am with a WS6. It has undergone multiple surgeries to become what it is now! Every winter, it gets some new “go fast” parts. It’s a 4-way LS motor with a Garrett 5594 turbo. It’s a pretty quick car. It’s been as fast as 8.35 in the quarter mile, at 168 miles an hour.

T: Is it a pro stock drag car? What classification is it?
K: It drives on the road more than it is on the track, so it’s a street class.

T: What advice would you give someone interested in chasing the dream of opening their own business?
K: To be honest with you, it was totally terrifying. I went from having a 40-hour-a-week job that makes decent money and was very secure and we had a certain living standard, and we realized that it was all about to change. I had a good feeling about it and I had backing from a couple of friends, so I didn’t have that concern.

T: What do you think about a nontraditional student coming back to Parkland? What sort of advice would you give that person?
K: You can always come back to Parkland. I’ve wanted to come back and do the upholstery class. It’s not really a part of what I do, I consider myself a go-fast guy, but nevertheless it’s a part of the world that I know zero about and that bothers me. You’re never too good to come back and learn. Technology evolves. I’m always wanting to learn.

T: Where did you go to high school?
K: I went to Rantoul. I had a fantastic shop teacher named Bill Wiley. Mr. Wiley actually made me interested in automotive. He was hands down the best shop teacher ever. He was very straightforward, but not by the book at all. He helped me out a ton.

T: Do you to build race cars for other people?
K: I do turbo kits, exhaust work, plumbing work, brake kits, and brake lines. I do almost anything, even build motors. My business is almost 100 percent building race cars. When I was starting out, I was as nervous as I could be and I took in jobs that had nothing to do with performance, just because I had to pay bills. Now, I don’t take in a job that doesn’t at least spark my interest or is a specialty of mine in the performance world. I very much try to stay to my field. I don’t want someone bringing their hundred-thousand-dollar race car into my shop and seeing a minivan on one of my racks.

T: What you would like to add?
K: I can’t emphasize taking classes enough. I love helping people out. This past fall, we took nine students to the track for the first time and after they had run down the track, they were grinning from ear to ear. To bring nine new guys into the thing you love is big to me. I want to show students that this is the right way to do it. That’s the big payoff.

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[To get started finishing your degree, contact Tony Hooker with the Parkland College Adult Re-entry Center at ahooker@parkland.edu or 217/351-2462.]

Collision Repair Q & A

The Collision Repair program at Parkland College received a lot of attention when they moved into the beautiful, state-of-the-art Parkhill Applied Technology Center facilities, but I hadn’t been back into that space much in the last two years.

I visited with instructor Chris Stephens about the programs being offered there, and was intrigued to learn more about the discipline and opportunities.

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Collision Repair instructors Dan Swann, left, and Chris Stephens, right

Q: What classes make up the Collision Repair curriculum?

A: Students enrolling can expect to take career-specific classes in the first semester. Those include dent repair, estimating, and glass trim and hardware. Those are prerequisites to other classes like automotive refinishing, structural repair, custom refinishing (using the airbrush), and custom upholstery. Students also take core classes in math, English, and speech.

Q: What is the job outlook like for Collision Repair students?

A: The students who want to work can almost guarantee themselves a job. Shops and insurance companies call us all the time for our best students. When bad weather hits, shops need help due to fender-benders and other damage as a result of the weather, and insurance companies need estimators. Most students don’t realize they might start as an estimator making $30-45,000 with the possibility to grow to $80,000. In a collision repair shop, they may start out at $10 per hour prepping parts, but as their skill level increases, they can make well over $20 per hour.

Q: What kind of student does well in Collision Repair?

A: People who do the best are those who know how to use tools or have the drive to finish something they start. They have a good work ethic and good eye-hand coordination. We often see people who are stuck in a “filler job,” working at something they don’t want to do long term. Collision repair is a great career choice, and many take classes while they work part or even full time to pay the bills.

Q: Talk about the Collision Repair facilities.

A: We have a state-of-the-art space in the Parkhill Applied Technology Center here at Parkland. We train students for the workplace setting, so we have top-notch paint booths and frame machines. Our measuring systems use computer-guided technology, one with an articulating arm and the other with lasers for precise measurements. We purchased the same type of equipment used in local shops so when students are employed they will already be familiar with these types of systems. Our bumper repair includes a nitrogen plastic welder, which is newer technology that insurance companies are requiring of shops to stay up to date.

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A vehicle awaits its paint job.

Q: What is the most popular aspect of the program among students?

A: Students are always anxious to start refinishing in the paint booth. That’s a fun part of the curriculum for many.

Q: How does someone get started in Collision Repair?

A: We have a new program starting in the spring semester, so students don’t have to wait to get started on a new career path. Visit our website and contact our program manager, David Anderson at est@parkland.edu.

Parkland Auto Takes on Vegas at SEMA Show

Parkland College Automotive students got to travel earlier this month to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they participated in the student education program at the world-renowned Specialty Equipment Market Association’s (SEMA) Show.

SEMA Show at Las Vegas Convention Center
SEMA Show at Las Vegas Convention Center

Six students and two faculty from Parkland’s Automotive Technology program participated in the five-day, celebrity-filled event. Student sessions took place Nov. 2 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, with a special lunch session for faculty members Nov. 3.

While there were not any technical hands-on activities, students were immersed in the skills required for professional interaction with companies trying to market their parts and services. The highlight for most any instructor is to be able to see students using what they have been exposed to and learned in the classroom in real life.

Parkland students at the SEMA Show (l. to r.): Brad Nelson, AJ Ross, Jeff Havener, Dan Goode, Thomas McClellan, and Jon Snelling
Parkland students at the SEMA Show (l. to r.): Brad Nelson, AJ Ross, Jeff Havener, Dan Goode, Thomas McClellan, and Jon Snelling

At first, students seemed overwhelmed by the experience! One student had never flown before and several students had never seen the Rocky Mountains. Only one had seen the lights of Las Vegas before. We exposed them to more than one million square feet of automotive products and services!

By the end of each day, however, it was amazing to listen to what our students were learning about the companies. Each of them provided examples of how they interacted with different companies and how they were able to adapt their approach and strategy in each experience based on what they were learning back home. As I walked the show floor looking for my own educational experience, several vendors recognized our Parkland Motorsport shirts and would say, “Your students were by here earlier—very impressive.” This is just another example of interaction you cannot get in the classroom.

Celebrities.  After current SEMA president Doug Evans addressed the more than 500 students in attendance Monday, TV personality, metal fabricator, and painter Jessi Combs also spoke. Jessi talked about how her passion for the industry has led to so many different and amazing experiences. She was also a part of the “Gear Up Girl’ event held later that day targeted specifically to women in the automotive industry. Later, there was Q&A with Doug and Jessi about SEMA and careers in the aftermarket industry. During the Tuesday luncheon, Doug addressed the faculty group along with Matt Crawford, author of the best-selling book Shop Class as Soul Craft.  About 100 school faculty and administrators were present.

Our students’ comments about SEMA:
“I had no idea there were so many different companies selling parts.”
“It’s so cool that these companies are interested in us even though we are just automotive students.” 

“I’m pretty sure I would have a job with this company if I moved to Texas.”
“I am having so much fun, I feel like I must be doing something wrong!”
“I can’t believe there were companies that knew about our drag car and training program.” 
“They said they remembered being at our school on the [Hot Rod Magazine] Power Tour stop.” 
“We get to come back next year, right?”

While our focus from this experience was on developing career paths for motorsport students, the option to participate was open to any students who could pay their portion of the trip (airfare, meals and boarding), which came to about $400. Plus, students had to be in good academic standing so they could miss other classes. Most had to take off work to participate over the five days.

…. And yes, we plan to go again in the future.

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Inside the classroom: Fuel and Emissions

IMG_5130previous blog entry about the Volkswagen emissions controversy tied in with some of the elements we teach in class, so I thought I’d provide a glance for automotive enthusiasts about some of our classroom activities. 

Yesterday in our Fuel and Emissions class (AFD 231), instructor Adam Karch worked with students to understand how onboard emission monitors are actually completed on a running and driving vehicle. Students used a chassis dynamometer, an exhaust gas analyzer, and scan tool to monitor when and how the vehicle’s emission system checked each of the required emission monitoring systems.

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The screen above shows the emission monitors that are being checked on a scan tool that is communicating with the vehicle’s onboard computer. The vehicle must be driven under different conditions that are programmed into the vehicle computer. The student has to drive the vehicle under different loaded conditions to get the vehicle’s onboard computer to check each of the required emission systems. The dynamometer displays a colored line on its display screen that is based on a program in the dynamometer that follows the proper drive cycle for emission testing.

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The above image shows the line that must be followed on the dynamometer screen. The student increases or decreases vehicle speed and load to follow the requirements of the test. The drive cycle test is very specific in vehicle speed and load conditions. It often takes multiple attempts to drive a vehicle on public roads to get a vehicle to complete all the required tests. Slowing down to avoid traffic or obey posted speed limits will interrupt the test. It is much safer and easier to complete a drive cycle on the chassis dynamometer.

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The chassis dynamometer also allows the instructor to be with the student in the learning environment to answer questions while the test is being competed. The student can then focus on learning and properly complete the test rather than traffic and general driving.

This learning activity also helps reinforce the importance of test-driving a customer’s car after a repair attempt has been made. If a technician determines an EGR valve has failed and replaces the valve, but does not test drive the vehicle under the correct conditions, the technician really does not know if the repair attempt has fixed the customer’s complaint. Driving the vehicle under the conditions that allow the onboard computer to complete a self-check is the only way to know definitively that the vehicle has been repaired.

This is only one example of many tests that your vehicle is continuously attempting to complete. Other tests might require the vehicle to sit unoperated for several hours or to be under a specific load and speed for several minutes.        

If you are interested in checking out our automotive technology programs or scheduling a tour of our facility, please email est@parkland.edu or call 217/351-2481. IMG_5132 IMG_5133

Emissions insights from Parkland’s automotive program

With car manufacturers and emissions taking the headlines this past week, I asked Parkland Automotive Program Director Jon Ross a few questions related to emissions.

Q: How are emissions created in cars?

A: Emissions are the by-products of combustion from the internal combustion engine, which usually operate on carbon based fuels like gasoline and diesel. Emissions are also created by gasoline evaporation.

Q: Where/how are emissions tested?

A: In central Illinois we do not have government required emission testing, however, if the “Service Engine Soon” light is on in your car or truck, your emission control systems “thinks” it is producing more emission than are allowed by law for the model year of your vehicle.  Since 1996 light duty cars and trucks have been required to report/record the operating status of emission monitoring systems–things like your catalytic converter or oxygen sensors. If these monitors detect an error, the service light will be turned on. These errors are based on numerical values in computer code–basically a bunch of “if ___then ___” sequences.

Q: So what are the car companies in question alleged to have done to the cars in more technical terms?

A: Vehicles are allowed to produce a certain amount of emissions based on federal law. Then the vehicle computer system must monitor the emission control system for the life of the vehicle. The asuumption is – if the vehicle monitoring systems are ok – then the vehicle must still be in compliance with the legal amount of emissions allowed.  When and how these monitors run is all based on computer code. From the reports I’ve seen, it appears that the details on when (run time, engine tempreature, rpm etc. )  the emissions monitors should run is in question.

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Q: Do Parkland students learn about emissions systems?

We study the required emission components of gasoline engines. These emission systems impact how a vehicle performs. Poor performance could be related to an emission system malfunction.  Emission components or control systems basically fall into three groups – evaporative emissions (stored fuel evaporation), fuel adaptation (changes to fuel delivery while running), and catalytic converters (after combustion treatment). There are many specific emission componets, but they will always have something to do with the emmissions created by either storing fuel or burning it.

Q: To what diagnostics systems and facilities do Parkland automotive students have access?

A: The automotive lab in our Parkhill Applied Technology Center contains 28,000 square feet of workspace designed to reflect the workflow of a modern dealership. In addition to work benches, tools and equipment from the industry’s to vendors, we have 15 lift work stations  (three fitted with Hunter’s HawkEye® alignment systems); flat work stations with room for 10 additional cars; Chassis and Engine Dynos for engine testing and tuning training–the only educational dynos in a 100-mile radius of Champaign–Mustang DM110SE Chassis Dynamometer & Stuska Track Master Water Brake Dynamometer.

Q: The Parkland Motorsports program is quite unique for automotive training. What is it?

A:The Parkland Motorsports program was started to enhance learning, develop additional skills, and provide networking opportunities for students in the Parkland College automotive program. The program offers a unique oppurtunity for students to learn beyond the classroom and take pride in their program and school. Right now, for example, students are preparing for the Champaign County Sports Car Club autocross race on Sunday in Rantoul. Several student drivers will be competing with Parkland’s Civic and Mustang.