Hopewell bus mechanic heads to national competition
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Sep 25, 2013, 15:36
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Bill Alsko of Hopewell is competing in a national school bus repair competition.
HOPEWELL — A local mechanic is competing today to be named America’s Best School Bus Technician during a national competition in Seattle, Wash.
Bill Alsko, a Richmond native who moved to Hopewell in 1991, took part in a statewide competition in June at the Chesterfield County Courthouse Bus Facility to name Virginias Best School Bus Technician. The top two in this competition move on to the national level for a chance to be named number one.
Alsko is going on his 13th year working as a mechanic for Hopewell Public Schools. He has been a mechanic for 35 years, influenced by his father, who was also a mechanic.
“That’s what I grew up around. My father owned a shop so of course being around him, I picked it up,” Alsko said.
The state competition is held by the Virginia Association for Pupil Transportation. While the national competition has been in place for 10 years, the state competition has been in place for four years, and Alsko has participated every year. In 2012, he placed third, and this year he won.
The competition involved two separate types of tests. The first was a written test, which included multiple choice questions similar to those on the tests given to certify mechanics from the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence.
The second part of the competition is hands on. The competitors have to prove they know what they’re doing when it comes to fixing the school buses.
“They give you three buses that are supposedly broke, and they give you a write up of what the driver has complained about,” Alsko said. “You get 15 minutes to diagnose the problem.”
Some of the issues the competitors are given include broken air conditioning, brake and electrical problems, as well as issues with wheelchair lifts. The mechanics must find the problem, and then figure out what to do to fix it.
The competitors are judged using a point-based system, which is affected by the amount of time it takes to figure out the problems as well as how they go about fixing them.
The national competition will have tests similar to the state competition. There is a written part, as well as hands on. The hands-on portion for the national level is slightly different though.
“They take the bus and purposely mess things up, and the inspector has a certain time to find as many of the problems as they can,” Alsko said.
The competition takes place today, although Alsko has been in Seattle all week. The event also includes hands-on training from the sponsors of the event, and tomorrow they will announce who will be America’s Best School Bus Technician.
While Alsko has taken part in the state competition before, this is his first trip to the national level. While he admits to being slightly nervous, Alsko knows not to let his nerves get the best of him.
“I think that’s the biggest thing is not to get nervous, to where you panic and you can’t think straight,” Alsko said. “I know it’s going to be similar to the state one, but I don’t know exactly what it’s like. Hopefully I’ll do well.”