DETROIT — Detroit Cristo Rey High School junior Andres Sanchez points to one of his favorite automotive tech features: a blue line of light that shines on the dashboard when he opens the door of a car in General Motors' climatic wind tunnel.
The driver can customize the light's color, says his classmate John Williams, but if you can tinker with the wiring like Williams can, the colors rotate.
Five times per month, Sanchez and Williams explore the climatic wind tunnel at GM's Tech Center in Warren, Mich., writing safety documents — and, of course, checking out the cars.
Williams, also a junior, likes luxury; the Cadillac Escalade is his favorite. Sanchez prefers the Chevrolet Silverado. Neither of the teenagers has his license yet, but they know GM vehicles and the work that goes into them better than most drivers.
Sanchez and Williams are part of Detroit Cristo Rey's work-study program.
Their duties typically consist of writing safety operating procedure documents for equipment in the wind tunnel, such as welding machines and charging stations. "We look it up and ask people around how to operate it," Williams said. In the process, the students ask GM's engineers about what they're working on and sometimes sit inside a new Chevrolet Corvette or Camaro, Sanchez added.
When Automotive News visited April 6, Sanchez and Williams were putting together a spreadsheet that documented who entered the wind tunnel, what was being tested and the results. This spreadsheet was relatively small because it only accounted for 2017, they said, but they had just finished a 2,000-row spreadsheet for 2014-16.
Projects like this have honed the students' organizational skills, which has helped them with schoolwork and improved their grades, they said.
"My freshman year, I wasn't organized at all. I didn't know how to keep my work together, so it would all get mixed up," Williams said. His mentors taught him to focus on one task at a time, he said.
Sanchez said his work for GM and his previous credit union job motivated him to think more about his future. "My freshman year, I would just slack off. I wouldn't do homework," he said.
Now his grades have improved, and he's become more organized and has career aspirations.