Isaac Bennett developed an interest in how things work the old-fashioned way – trying to fix toys and other things he broke when he was a kid.
He learned the basics of modern programmable machines while building Lego Mindstorm robots. He became enthralled with combustion engines by fixing lawn mowers left at the town dump, also known as the solid waste transfer station and recycling center in Gray.
“It’s a really good dump,” Bennett says. “You can leave stuff that somebody else might want and take whatever you want.”
Through the years, Bennett has found and fixed up several push mowers and a snowblower that he gave to his oldest brother as a Christmas present. He also maintains his family’s riding tractor and two four-wheelers, and he rebuilt a snowmobile, a 1989 Jeep Wrangler and a four-wheeler that he bought cheap, fixed up and flipped, making a $1,000 profit.
His fascination and skill with machines propelled the home-schooled student to enroll and excel in the automotive technology program at Portland Arts and Technology High School. Bennett, who graduates from the PATHS program this month, was part of a two-man team that won the 2016 Top Tech Challenge, a New England regional competition hosted by Universal Technical Institute last December that tested auto repair knowledge and diagnostic skills.
In April, Bennett won the state-level SkillsUSA automotive service technology competition and will represent Maine at the national competition June 22-23 in Louisville, Kentucky.
Building on the educational foundation that his mother provided at home, Bennett took English 101, technical algebra and technical physics at Southern Maine Community College, and technical writing at Central Maine Community College.
Bennett, 17, plans to continue his studies at CMCC this fall under a Ford-sponsored program to become a Ford-certified technician. He’s well on his way following an apprenticeship at Rowe Ford in Westbrook, where he got real-life experience in auto shop dynamics, parts selection, warranties, scheduling, diagnostics and repairs using the latest tools and computer technology.
“That is one of the most important aspects of the industry today,” Bennett says. “Everything is (done) on the computer, so learning how that works is extremely important.”
— By Kelley Bouchard