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Documentary Examines Automotive and Diesel Technicians

Jul 8, 2018 ·

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Three teenagers, one RV and two weeks on the road talking with some of the country's leading automotive and diesel technicians: this is the adventure captured in “Changing Gears,” a documentary produced by Roadtrip Nation.

The hour-long documentary follows high school students Alexandra Burton and Michael Arney, and NASCAR Technical Institute student Dylan Babel, on a journey that took them to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Houston, and Phoenix.

The trio was able to interview some of their biggest heroes and learn more about the opportunities available in the auto and diesel technician fields.

The program is currently available online and has been airing on PBS stations throughout the country.

Roadtrip Nation was founded in 2004, and the program chronicles young people in search of self-discovery.

For “Changing Gears,” all three participants knew they loved cars. They just weren't aware of the vast possibilities they could encounter in careers pursuing their passions.

Universal Technical Institute logo branded on a car

Famous Faces and Passionate Purists

Along the way, Alex, Michael and Dylan interviewed more than 15 auto and diesel professionals who have turned their adoration for cars, trucks and the intricate work that goes into them into amazing careers. Some of the people featured in the documentary include:

  • Roger Penske, NASCAR racing legend, and founder and chairman of the Penske Corporation, a highway transportation services company
  • Dennis McCarthy, owner of Vehicle Effects, which creates Hollywood vehicles that have been featured in movies like The Fast and the Furious franchise, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, and La La Land
  • John Hennessey, founder of Hennessey Performance, which creates street-legal, high-performance vehicles and has broken a world record for vehicle speed
  • Bogi Lateiner, owner of 180º Automotive, a mostly female automotive technician shop, host of All Girls Garage on Velocity Channel, and UTI graduate

Other interview subjects included Porsche collector Magnus Walker, World Famous 4x4 founder and CEO Henrik Hairapetian, and SEMA garage senior coordinator Stephanie Martinez.

During each interview, the trio asked each subject what inspired their devotion to vehicles, why the industry is worth getting into, and what advice they have for young people.

While each person has a unique experience and history with automotive and diesel vehicles, a common thread ran through their interviews: they love the industry and are constantly taking in new knowledge.

Students smiling while working on vehicles

Lessons for a Lifetime

As teenagers who expressed uncertainties about their futures and career paths at the beginning of the documentary, the wisdom passed down from each expert was encouraging throughout.

“The world would stop without mechanics and people with technical skills,” Rod Fuller, vice president of operations at Exotics Racing in Las Vegas, tells the interviewers in the documentary. Fuller, who had an enthusiasm for racing from an early age and went on to race himself, now gets to work on his fondness for racing every day.

At Exotics Racing, patrons can get behind the wheel of a high-speed vehicle themselves and tear around a racetrack.

The trio also talked with diesel expert technicians for Ryder, a fleet management and supply chain management company. Ryder diesel mechanic Scout Gillick and technician II Heather Opp, both female pros, encouraged aspiring female technicians to pursue their dreams.

Opp admitted she was too intimidated to work on cars before she began her career, but now she's thrilled to discover something different on the job every day.

“You never stop learning in this industry,” Opp says in the documentary. “There’s always something new, something evolving, some new technique coming out.”

Michael, one of the roadtrippers, loves fixing cars in his garage in Oregon. The high school senior said he had no idea how many options were available to make his hobby a career until embarking on the trip.

“There are multiple ins to the industry,” Michael says in the documentary. From building lowrider vehicles, to managing an adult playground full of digging equipment, to creating auto parts with the help of 3D printing, viewers of the “Changing Gears” documentary get an inside glimpse into the diverse and exciting world of working with vehicles.

Students walking down Positive Attitude Boulevard

Make Your Own Future Brighter

By the end of the documentary, Alex, Michael and Dylan express gratitude for the new connections and an eagerness to learn more. You can watch the documentary to see their stories at

If you're inspired by the expedition the participants take, enrolling at Universal Technical Institute (UTI) can help you prepare for a career as a technician.1

Just like Dylan, a student at UTI's NASCAR Technical Institute, you’ll get hands-on training with state-of-the-industry equipment and vehicles.

And, every day you'll be able to talk with instructors who are experienced professionals. More importantly, they care about helping you get the most of your education.

UTI has programs for those interested in automotive, diesel, NASCAR, motorcycle, marine, CNC machining, welding, and collision repair.

Want to know more? If you've been online searching an automotive mechanic school, or other types of hands-on training, you can request information here.
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1) UTI is an educational institution and cannot guarantee employment or salary.

2) For program outcome information and other disclosures, visit

Universal Technical Institute of Illinois, Inc. is approved by the Division of Private Business and Vocational Schools of the Illinois Board of Higher Education.


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