Austin Owens took a long look Thursday at the new Toyota engines in front of him at Allen Thornton Career Technical Center.

The Brooks High School junior then summarized the thoughts of the other students who also were checking out the engines.

"Give me a wrench and ratchet and I'll tear into it," Owens said.

Allen Thornton is among five Shoals institutions that received engines Toyota has donated at a time when construction of the massive Mazda Toyota Manufacturing USA plant continues in Madison County.

Five engines went to Allen Thornton, while Northwest-Shoals Community College received three, and Muscle Shoals Career Academy, Tuscumbia City Schools and Colbert County Schools each received one, said Adam Himber, existing industry coordinator for the Shoals Economic Development Authority.

The donations started with a discussion between Toyota officials and SEDA Vice President Kevin Jackson, Himber said.

Jackson called local technical schools after Toyota officials expressed an interest in helping them, Himber said. The engine donations grew from there.

Keith Springer, Automotive Service Technology instructor at Allen Thornton, said Toyota donated seven engines six weeks ago, so this means the students now have a dozen engines.

That will allow students each to have more time working on modern engines, and have experience that will look good to prospective employers, including those at and connected to the Mazda-Toyota plant.

"They're wanting guys more trained when they get out of school, and getting newer engine models helps tremendously," Springer said.

He said some are V6 engines and others are four cylinders, and Toyota officials indicated they will provide V8 engines, as well.

"Engines are constantly changing," Springer said. "This lets the students get familiar with engines and see how they're made now. I look forward to tearing into them and seeing inside them."

Lauderdale County High School senior Kobe Dickerson is in his final weeks at Allen Thornton. He plans to use that time learning as much as possible about the new engines.

"All my life I grew up working on old vehicles," Dickerson said. "The more we get updated on this kind of stuff, the more we learn about the newer engines. This is different than working on the old block engines."

Gary Dan Williams, Lauderdale County's career technical director, said work at the automotive center often involves repairing vehicles that are brought in by the public. He said that will continue, but the new engines expand what can be taught.

"This is huge," Williams said. "This is going to bring more accountability on each student's part."

He said students from Allen Thornton's welding and engineering programs built stands for the engines, which allows students more access to the engines while working on and learning about them.

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