SIU students have busy time at Du Quoin’s Street Machines

Students in Southern Illinois University Carbondale’s automotive technology program planned to be busy at this year’s General Tire Street Machine Nationals in Du Quoin. 

This was the fourth year students developed and will judge and present the “Best Integration and Use of Technology Award” since the event returned to Southern Illinois in 2013. 

Each year, students design and fabricate the one-of-a-kind trophy. 

Students assemble a judging team, develop a plan and put into action their processes to evaluate thousands of show vehicles over one weekend. 

Students looked at the more than 2,800 high performance street machines, hot rods and trucks which were expected in Southern Illinois Friday through Sunday, June 24-26. 

The trophy, created from bits and pieces of a transmission, “goes to show that random pieces of scrap metal can turn into a beautiful piece of art with a little imagination,” said Aaron Weckhorst, a senior in automotive technology from Champaign, and president of Automotive Technology Organization, a registered student organization on campus. 

The trophy, designed by a 2016 automotive technology graduate, features gears that spin, Weckhorst said. 

The handful of students who were involved in judging carefully examined cars “for what we collectively think meets our criteria best,” he said. 

Students also hosted a “Hot Rod Hospital,” where they lent a hand in making repairs, or loaned tools and equipment to event participants who needed to make quick adjustments to their vehicles.  

In addition, the students showed off their 1966 Chevy Nova Super Sport, a project that started in 1985 with a $100 body. 

Students received firsthand knowledge in working on the drag car, which competes locally in Benton and Paducah.

“The Street Machine Nationals brings thousands of the nation’s finest custom vehicles to Southern Illinois. The craftsmanship in metalworking, painting, graphics, and vehicle technology displayed is absolutely amazing,” department chairperson Michael Behrmann said.

Behrmann said that having students participate in the national event “helps fuel their passion and helps recognize the passion others have in their vehicles.” 

About 10 students were involved with the Street Machine Nationals, Behrmann said, with many returning to Southern Illinois from summer internships. 

Weckhorst said he was working through an internship in the parts department at CIT Trucks in Champaign. The internship is a valuable experience, said Weckhorst, who transferred to SIU Carbondale from Parkland College after two years.

The Gazette-Democrat

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