"Revved up and ready"
Abington girl breaks new ground in auto contest
May 12, 2001 -- BY SHANLEY STERN SSTERN@CNC.COM
Massachusetts female to win a state-wide high school automotive
contest will travel to Washington D.C. this June to compete
with her teammate against the 50 best teams in the country.
Brenda Fry, 17, of Abington, knew she wanted to work with
cars since she helped her father as a young girl fix their
lawnmower. She never wavered from her conviction and headed
straight to the automotive department at South Shore Vocational
Technical School in Hanover her freshman year. She learned
to repair brakes, change the oil, replace exhaust systems
and rotate the tires while at the same time taking regular
high school academic classes.
Now a senior, Fry said she works full-time at Jiffy Lube
in Whitman where she is the only female mechanic.
"Every once in a while people will come in and get mad
that a girl is working on their car, " Fry said, " or
they will get out of the car and watch every little thing
I do. I think its because they didn't grow up with girls
working on cars. But now there are more girls in the field."
While there are eight females enrolled in the school's
automotive program, automotive instructor David Haskins
said only 50 percent will stay in the field, as opposed
to 80 percent of the males.
Fry's partner, senior Patrick Murphy, of Hingham, also
knew from a young age that he had a talent with cars.
Two years before he was eligible for his driver's license,
Murphy and his best friend bought an old car and taught
themselves through many days of trial and error how to
fix its parts.
"We worked on it every weekend, " Murphy said, "If we
broke something, we would just figure out how to fix it
again, I was always better with hands-on things."
The duo competed last month in the contest against 10
other teams from across the state, Each team was given
an identical Ford 2001 car with 10 things wrong with it.
Each team was responsible for identifying the problems
and then fixing them while being timed. Fry and Murphy
fixed all the defects in 39 minutes, by far the fastest
Haskins said South Shore Vocational Technical School has
won the competition seven times since 1992, but Fry is
the first female to win.
"The win was really a group effort," Haskins said. "Teachers
and the administration gave them extra time to practice
and Jannelle Ford gave them a car to work on. Not every
dealership would do that."
Though both Fry and Murphy want to stay connected to the
automotive field in the future, both will be attending
local colleges in the fall. Murphy is going to major in
mechanical engineering and Fry in business management.
The annual competition entails not only a hands-on test,
but requires a written test to qualify. The top two scores
enter the contest.
Vocational school superintendent John Kosko said he viewed
the students' win as not only a tribute to them, but also
as a too] to measure acquired learning. As a key figure
in the fight to include a technical element on the MCAS
tests for vocational students, Kosko said these types
of competitions speak to the kind of achievements theses
"There needs to be a technical component put in place
for these students on the MCAS," Kosko said. "I'm not
looking to diminish the importance of the test, but I
think it makes common sense that it be included as an
While vocational students traditionally scored low on
the MCAS, Kosko said South Shore Vocational Technical
School students scored at the top for technical schools.
Since seniors will be required to pass the test starting
next year in order to graduate from high school, Kosko
said the state educational board will hold a hearing at
the state house to evaluate incorporating a technical
Reprinted with permission from Abington Mariner"; Photo
credit: © cdb photos.