By STEELE HAUGEN
CENTRAL OREGON DAILY NEWS
Working on cars, usually means getting your hands greasy and dirty.
That wasn’t the case for Redmond’s Garrett Eastham – who proved his skills recently under the hood, while only touching a keyboard.
Eastham competed in SkillsUSA automotive competitions since his freshman year of high school.
The contest, which is usually very hands on, working on cars, semi trucks and parts, was changed to a virtual competition in 2020.
The competition turned into an online test.
Garrett had an interest in automotives at a young age.
“I was about 12 years old, my dad had an orange pickup that I always played in a bunch,” Garrett said. “I always wanted that pickup as my own and I did, so I built that pickup from the ground up.”
His dad, Robert Eastham, is an automotive teacher at Redmond High.
He says Garrett’s interest grew at RHS.
“He chose to compete in SkillsUSA at a regional level, and continued on through the program and became what they call a concentrator,” Robert said.
SkillsUSA is a technical student organization.
“They’ll bring new semis in and actually create issues the students must figure out what’s wrong with the semi and wrong with the engine, why it might not run,” Robert said about previous competitions.
Garrett placed third in the Diesel Equipment Technology competition his junior year.
“Online was actually more difficult for the kids because they don’t get to have that ability to see the part and touch and feel, which they are used to,” Robert said.
Despite the challenge, Garrett became state champion.
“It was …different,” Garrett said about the 2020 contest. “I wish I would have been at the competition to receive the medal from the presidents and stuff, but I’m glad I did win it. I enjoyed the experience.”
Garrett is now enrolled at OIT and hopes to eventually find a job with NASA or Tesla.
He offered some words of advice to young automotive students.
“Take your time, a lot of the online programs are good for physics and just the knowledge base,” Garrett said. “You can learn a lot from that. There will be plenty of time for shop work afterwards.”