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BOCES Auto Teacher, Students Build a Race Car

VALHALLA, N.Y. – Peter Schwartzott Jr. is teaching his automotive students at the Center for Career Services at Southern Westchester BOCES how to do everything from replacing a brake pad to building a race car.

The classroom instructor, who moonlights as a professional race car driver, has worked with his students to build the 2012 Honda Civic he will race in this summer’s Sports Car Club of America’s Pro Racing World Challenge. Honda delivered the empty shell of the Civic’s body, and Schwartzott and his students built the car from there.

“The students knew I raced, so they started asking me, ‘When are you going to bring in your race cars?’ ” said Schwartzott, a Greenburgh resident.

Since Schwartzott will be the one driving the car this summer, he is supervising the project to make sure they efficiently alter the car’s steering, suspension and electrical connections.

“My hook is to keep them engaged in the activities I have them participate in,” Schwartzott said. “It’s exciting for them to know they’re a part of something different, and it is real racing.”

Schwartzott’s curriculum isn’t fun and games though. He spends each lesson period teaching students, who spend one half of the day learning about the automotive industry and the other half in classes at their local high schools, how to maintain different vehicles.

“I do a lot of show-and-tell demonstrations,” Schwartzott said. “For example, I will show them what a worn-out brake pad looks like and what a good one looks like.”

As a model, he might practice those demonstrations on the 2012 Honda Civic or the jet-black 2011 Mazda 2 race cars he has in his classroom garage.

Schwartzott encourages his students to further their education after they graduate from the the Center for Career Services at Southern Westchester BOCES as well.

He might suggest they attend postsecondary institutions like the State University of New York’s locations at Delhi, Morrisville or Alfred, which all offer associate or baccalaureate automotive management programs.

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