OWLS HEAD —Rohobot Carlson, or “Ro” as he is known to his friends and teachers, is a second year student at the Midcoast School of Technology in Rockland and one of 12 students studying automotive technology. At age 16, he is studying how to identify, analyze and diagnose every single mechanical part of a car, which has about 30,000 parts, down to the smallest screws. He just received MCST’s award for “Student of the Month” in auto tech.
The enormous warehouse that sits in back of the MCST classrooms is where the students receive hands-on training in a number of fields, including building and automotive repair. The massive bay in the auto tech section holds three vehicles, all donated. Each vehicle is a little like a cadaver that first-year medical students use.
“I like cars,” said Ro. “I didn’t really know much about them, though, because I didn’t grow up around them.”
He was born in Ethiopia and adopted as a child to a Maine family. Just last month, he earned his U.S. citizenship.
“I wanted to learn about them and try this program,” he said. “I didn’t know what anything was when I first started, not even what a wrench was. I’m still learning; there’s a lot to learn, just on the components. For example, just the process of the brakes. The hard part is diagnosing what the problem is, but I can fix them if I’m shown.”
The students haven’t even gotten to the engine component of the course, yet. The transmission of a vehicle has been Ro’s biggest challenge.
“Right now we’re working on the suspension,” he said. “If I have a problem that is not too difficult of a task, I’d like to learn how to fix it. I know that will save me tons of money later in life to know how to fix my own car.”
Though he he’s still working on obtaining his license and doesn’t yet own a car, his dream car would be a Camaro ZL1.
“It’s a pretty sporty muscle car; I’ve always liked cars since I was a kid, either cherry red or black,” he said.
Reality TV star Mike Rowe, host of Dirty Jobs, which celebrates the blue-collar work ethic of tradesmen, said there are abundant opportunities for affordable training and good wages in blue collar fields.In an article in City Journal, he stated, “Plumbers, pipe fitters, carpenters, mechanics, those men and women right now... can pretty much write their own ticket.”
The Auto Tech Program extends for two years and Ro is on his second year. As a homeschooled student, he is considering the idea of taking the program all over again next fall ,but as his instructor Tom Vannah explains, he’d advance into more of a deeper independent study on the subject.
As for whether he wants to go to a technical school post high school, Ro is not sure.
“If I do keep on with this, I’d likely go to a technical school,” he said. “I know there’s more work in the bigger cities, but I like Maine. I see myself living in Maine.”
Besides cars, Ro likes history as a subject and is pretty active in sports and playing soccer when he has time.
Apart from school, he works part time at E.L. Spear Hardware after school in customer service, another valuable experience if he ever decided to work as a mechanic.
“You definitely learn how to deal with people in customer service when you’re a mechanic,” he said. “In some ways, that is the most important part, to be able to communicate to all kinds of people.”
Like most of the kids profiled in this series, he isn’t sure what the future holds. He just knows if his car ever breaks down, he’ll be one of the few kids he knows, who’ll have no trepidation pulling up the hood and getting a little dirty to fix the problem.
Hail To The Rad Kids is an ongoing feature highlighting teens in the Midcoast with special talent.
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org