Car enthusiasts fuel their passion through projects


Car lovers on campus further their passion in a variety of ways: taking the Automotive Technology classes, working on personal projects, attending car meetups and more.

Gunn Auto Tech Class

For many car enthusiasts, such as junior Jordan Minion, their interests stemmed from the environment around them. “I was always interested in auto work because some of my friends have it as a hobby,” she said. “I’d already studied (the subject) before taking the auto class.”

Though junior Ethan Casale has always liked cars, Gunn’s Automotive Technology classes fostered his hobby of working on them. “I’ve always been interested in cars since I was a kid, and I’ve been working on bikes a lot,” he said. “Then the auto class at school really sparked my interest in working on cars myself.”

The Automotive Technology classes, led by teacher Mike Camicia, provide students with a way to explore their interests and get hands-on experience with cars. Students work on cars in the auto yard and also bring in their own cars for repairs if needed.

Freshman Cole Akin, a student in Automotive Technology 1, enjoys the class’ deep dive into cars and hands-on work. “It is an amazing class,” he said. “Mr. Camicia, the auto teacher, is so friendly, and the projects (he) has introduced us to are unimaginable. In the first two months of that class we were already taking apart engines. It was an incredible experience.”

Minion, who is simultaneously taking both of the Automotive Technology courses, also appreciates the class projects they are able to work on. “We dissected an engine together, so we were allowed to take it apart and put it back together,” she said. “That was really cool and it showed you the inner workings.”

Similarly, Casale, who is taking Automotive Technology 2, enjoys the practicality of their classwork. “Right now we’re building a 1920s Model T Ford from scratch, and we’re putting a rotary engine in it,” he said. “They’re real projects.”

The casual, collaborative environment of the auto class is another aspect that Casale enjoys. “Mr. Camicia treats us like his friends and like we’re actually helping him,” he said. “It’s not so much like a class.”

U.S. History teacher Chris Eggert, who is an avid car enthusiast, sees the Automotive Technology classes as a valuable opportunity for student learning. “It’s really good and heartening that Gunn has an auto shop,” he said. “I think it’s great that students have the opportunity to still do that.”

Personal Projects

As high schoolers, many students are beginning to drive and buy their own cars. For many, this means having their own car to work with to their heart’s content.

Junior Lucy Shark works on her own car at home. When she was younger, she learned how to work with cars by watching her dad work around the garage. “I got into cars because my dad likes cars,” she said. “Growing up, I was just around that.”

While she learned mostly through observation and not hands-on work, Shark now works on a Dodge Charger she bought herself. “It was kind of a beater when I bought it, which means it wasn’t in good condition,” she said. “It didn’t run, so I fixed it up to run. It’s still kind of finicky and inconsistent sometimes. But I fixed it up, and it’s now my car.”

Casale, in addition to taking Automotive Technology for the past two years, works on personal projects including a modification build for his car. “I have a 1989 BMW,” he said. “I’m doing a drift stance build on it. It’s a lot of fun, and I work on it almost every day.”

Casale enjoys seeing his time and effort turn into a tangible result. “I have a vision for my car,” he said. “It keeps me going. It’s something that I look forward to doing, something that I have motivation to do. I really like seeing it come together. I’m excited for what’s in the future.”

While Minion currently doesn’t have a car of her own, she often takes on projects and repairs for others. “I’ve done repairs with my friends’ cars,” she said. “I change my friends’ oil, I’ve done tire changes, but nothing too crazy.”

When he was in high school, Eggert worked on cars with his friends, repairing and selling them for a profit. “My friends and I had a hobby of working on cars, like changing oil and rotating tires,” Eggert said. “We found that we could buy a car at a low price and sell it a little bit higher, so we did that sometimes in high school. You could say we were flipping the cars. It was a hobby but we also profited.”

Additionally, Eggert and his friends would do car maintenance and modifications. “We used to do custom rims and low-profile tires,” he said. “We would change the suspension lower. In the ’80s that was very popular—lowering cars.”

Junior Nathan Yost volunteers at a Mercedes-Benz shop, where he helps professional shop mechanics repair customers’ cars. Yost has found the process to be difficult but still rewarding. “It’s fun—frustrating sometimes—but mostly quite fun,” he said. “Sometimes the Mercedes people who are building the car put the engine together outside of the car. Then I have to take it apart and put it back together inside the car.”

In the Community

Car enthusiasts are also able to connect with others beyond the school community. Car shows are a place where people can meet others with interest in and experience working with cars. Yost has had the opportunity to attend car shows and meet people with shared interests around the neighborhood. “I went to Cars and Coffee, which is where a bunch of real, regular people bring their cars,” he said. “Every year, I also try to go to the auto show in San Francisco when it comes.”

Casale also enjoys attending car meets when he finds the time. “I go when I can on the weekends, and it’s a lot of fun because you meet people and just talk about cars,” he said.

With how frequently cars are used in everyday lives, having an understanding of automotive technology can be valuable. Minion appreciates her experience in fixing cars and its real-life applications. “We use cars everyday to get everywhere, and it’s one of the most important inventions ever,” she said. “Being able to know how it works is super useful for later in life when you have to fix your own car.”

In an age where cars are becoming more and more advanced, Eggert also believes that having a basic knowledge of cars is essential for all. “Even if you don’t want to work on cars yourself, the more you know about cars, the more appreciative you’ll be,” he said. “It’s good for everybody to know about them, just the same way you would know about your computer or home systems. The more you know, the more you’ll be equipped if you take it to a service person, and the more you have a chance at getting a good deal.”