Automotive Summer Camp: 2021

Automotive Summer Camp:  2021

What have you done this summer?  I realize it is only July, but so far mine has started out really well!  At the end of June, I had the honor to be part of an automotive summer camp for 12-18 year old students.  The goal was to connect students to the automotive industry, opening their eyes to the fun  of the car hobby and potential careers.

In April, I wrote about the planning for the “Full Tank” automotive camp in the article Automotive Summer Camp.  This camp was put on by the Midland County ESA with the support of Northwood University and a cast of great supporters listed below:

  • Garber Chevrolet (Midland, MI)
  • Hagerty Insurance
  • Delta College
  • Serra Chevrolet and Serra Toyota (Saginaw, MI)

A lot of planning went into this three day camp. The core team lead by Don Johnson and Colette Morris from Midland County ESA and Elgie Bright (Associate Professor and Department Chair, Automotive Marketing/Management) did a masterful job of crafting a great program for the students enrolled.


In addition to some fun activities designed to build teamwork with the kids, the key topics covered included the following:

  • Automotive History 
  • Electric Vehicle Walk-around Demonstration
  • Classic Car Overview and Ride Along
  • Engine Teardown and Mechanical Repairs
  • Dealership Tour
  • Car Commercial Activity

Automotive History: 37 Events That Shaped the Automotive Industry

With the camp agenda focused on future opportunities for these students, a history of the automotive industry was important.  After all, you can’t build a great house without a solid foundation!

I took the students back to 1900 when the primary mode of transportation was the horse drawn carriage.  I concluded with potential career opportunities as internal combustion engines give way to electric motors, and more dealers adopt online strategies.

Fun fact: Did you know a major impetus to bring automobiles to market was born from a “pollution” problem?  NY City had to deal with 2 million pounds of horse manure in its streets EACH DAY! 

Over the course of 120 years of history, I hit on the key events that kept moving the industry to the next level.  Along the way, I was surprised by the knowledge these students displayed.  

One middle-schooler asked me if John DeLorean was responsible for the Pontiac GTO (he was) while another shared that the Volkswagen Kübelwagen used by the Germans in World War II was the inspiration for the VW Thing.  I made the assumption that the class was going to be pretty green with this subject.  Not so.  I was so encouraged by the interest and enthusiasm of these great, young students.

kids standing by Chevrolet Bolt

Electric Vehicle Walkaround Demo

Garber Chevrolet (Midland, MI) brought two Chevrolet Bolt EVs to campus, and provided a sales walkaround on the newest electric vehicles from Chevrolet.  The students were very interested in this new technology.  Or so it seemed.

I asked a group of them what they thought about electric cars.  I was surprised to hear they liked the “older stuff.”  I’m not sure if this is a representative sample feeling of all young car enthusiasts, but it surprised me just the same. 

My hope for the survival of the collector car hobby just jumped up a notch.

4 adults teaching kids about old cars

Collector Car Overview and Ride Along

In addition to providing excellent collector car insurance, Hagerty Insurance is a big supporter of the car hobby.  If you watch the Barrett-Jackson auctions or any number of car shows on Motor Trend TV, it’s likely Hagerty was a sponsor of the event.  Check out their Driver’s Club information and activities HERE.

Rachel Ventimiglia (Car Culture Manager, Hagerty Insurance) brought three collector cars and a team from Hagerty to help support a cool activity for the students.

Armed with a 1967 Pontiac GTO, 1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS and 2013 Ford Shelby GT500, the team provided an overview of all three cars along with important tips on important upkeep needed.  


Once the demonstration was finished, the students got a chance to get a ride in each of the cars.  I saw the excitement level increase dramatically once they heard those engines start and they pulled away from the parking lot.  No one would give me details, but I suspect they got a real taste of the power of these cars once they were out of sight of us responsible adults.

The crowd favorite?  1969 Chevrolet Camaro SS

I thank Rachel and her team from Hagerty for their support of the camp.  They were awesome!

kid working on engine

Engine Teardown and Mechanical Repairs

On day two, the students took a short bus ride to Delta College in Midland, MI.  Delta is a highly accredited community college providing associate degrees in a wide array of fields.  For the camp, we leaned on the Automotive Service Technology program for support.

The visit to Delta was very hands-on.  The students learned how to use special tools, like a torque wrench.  They tore down and reassembled small engines, learned how to perform a front end alignment on a car.  They also learned how to rotate, mount and balance tires.  All important tasks to learn. 

It was the favorite part of the camp for about half of the campers.  They were fairly evenly split between the collector car ride along with Hagerty and the Delta lab for top activity. 

Dealership Visit 

The visit to Serra Chevrolet and Serra Toyota tied together the things they saw in the previous two days with sales, marketing, service, body shop, and finance operations at the two dealerships.  

Many of the students were surprised by the service area in the dealership.  It was a great way for them to see a possible career path and what it will take to enter this field.  They were very interested in the fact that they saw some of the equipment in the dealership that they had used the day before at Delta College.  Several of them said they could see themselves in the program at Delta once they graduate from High School.  

The guide at the dealership was quick to point out the technicians at Serra that were in the automotive program at Delta.  The Toyota Service Manager identified several students he could see as future employees at Serra.

Mission accomplished!

Car Commercial Activity

At the end of day one, the students were challenged to create their own car commercial video.  They worked as groups to develop their message and record videos that could be shared with the group at the end of day three.  A sample of one of the videos is shown below:

This turned out to be a great activity. We saw everything from a comedy routine, Tik Tok video to a standard vehicle walk around.  It really showed how much the students learned and how engaged they were in the camp activities.  

It also demonstrated that the car culture was alive and well with today’s younger audience.  And that my friends is why I created Vehicle Nanny. 

Supporting Young Car Enthusiasts 

This summer camp was so rewarding for me.  My concerns from the early days of Vehicle Nanny have all but disappeared.  The car hobby, and interest in automotive careers, is still alive and kicking with our young students. 

Unfortunately, automotive summer camps are rare.  If there is not a summer camp convenient for you, I have several alternatives for budding car enthusiasts.  Check out those details in the article The Car Hobby:  Find Your Thing.

If you have any further questions, please email me at, or message me through the Vehicle Nanny Instagram or Facebook pages.

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  1. mmcr

    So good to see the youth of today have this much interest in and knowledge of the makings of the auto industry. And to be offered such a cross-section of topics covered in the three days is great. The hands-on approach in their ride-alongs, tear downs, and dealership tour would keep their interest and questions coming. And creating the car commercials provided hands-on within a group to run with it. And seeing teens engage and have fun, well, that’s just priceless! Kudos to the group!

  2. Don Johnson

    Bill thank you for working with us on the camp. You were an integral part of the camps success. It was great to work with you and we are looking forward to working with you in the future.

    Thank you Bill for helping spark the interest of the next generation of ‘Car guys’ and ‘Car Gals’

    • Bill

      Thank you for those kind words, Don. I thoroughly enjoyed working with you and the team.


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