Student attains top industry-level rating

The public might recognize Nolan Bunting from his recent role as Fred Flintstone in the Homer Council on the Arts recent production of the “60s Show.” Or maybe from seeing him perform with the Homer High School choir and band. Or through his involvement with the school’s drama, debate and forensics club. Perhaps through his volunteer work at Alaska Islands and Ocean Visitor Center. Or helping reassemble a whale skeleton. Or through birding. Or citizen science activities.

Recently the 17-year-old Homer High School junior mastered one more area of interest. Through Homer High’s small engines class, taught by Cam Wyatt, Bunting has become a Briggs and Stratton MST, master service technician, an elite group of about 3,000 worldwide, according to Deanna Zabel, senior manager of corporate communications for Briggs and Stratton Corp.

“Having Nolan Bunting as one of the younger MSTs goes to show his dedication to his craft and we are proud of this accomplishment and the many to come in his long career,” Zabel told the Homer News.

Knowing how to assemble and troubleshoot engines aren’t Bunting’s first loves. He has his eyes on a career that will allow him “to go out into the ecosystems and study to conserve and protect endangered species throughout the world,” said Bunting. “I’ve been interested in animals as long as I can remember. Everything I’ve done most of my life has partially involved that love of animals.”

Aware his goal means going to where animals are, most likely in out-of-the-way places, Nolan has taken a step to prepare for remote locations.

“I believe in having multiple knowledge, not just specifying one thing. I want to be a wildlife manager, basically going into conservation and the study of animals, so I need a fundamental understanding of engines. If I’m in the field and an engine breaks down, I don’t have to ask for repairs if I know how to fix it,” said Bunting.

At the time he enrolled in Homer High’s small engine class, Bunting’s knowledge of engines and tools was limited.

“I didn’t know what a socket wrench was, a closed-end wrench or even what kind an engine was. I came in with no prior knowledge,” said Bunting.

He immediately developed for himself a learning curve with a very steep incline.

“Nolan completed levels for beginner, intermediate, advanced, and master service technician, including the testing at each level,” said Wyatt. “He also disassembled a model 12000 horizontal series engine, down to the block and then reassembled it. It had to run as if it was fresh off the factory assembly line, perfect. If not, he had to go into a diagnostic mode, discover why and fix it.”

In 18 weeks, Bunting completed sections on beginning four-cycle theory, fuel systems and carburetors, governor systems, ignition systems, parts look-up and identification. He proceeded to intermediate charging systems, diagnostics and troubleshooting, failure analysis and intermediate fuel and carburetors.

Having completed that, he then tackled advanced diesel theory and progressed to MST-level theory and general knowledge, failure analysis and warranty, products and diagnostics, and repowering.

“The curriculum is delivered through a ‘blended’ educational approach of distant, direct and hands-on project-based educational learning,” said Wyatt. “It requires self-motivation, the want to ‘know’ and the willingness to learn from your mistakes.” 

The MST rating is the highest industry rating, standard and certificate Braggs and Stratton offers, according to Wyatt.

“Briggs and Stratton produces more than 9.5 million engines a year and one will find their engines on everything from mowers to home generators,” said Wyatt. “They are the industry leader in small engines.”

For Bunting, it also means “I can technically go out into the workforce as a master service technician and repair any Briggs and Stratton engine.”

Bunting’s achievement is something no other student in Wyatt’s class has achieved, although others are now close to completing the task.

“It is a huge accomplishment. … Nolan has set the bar high and proven to his peers that it can be done with hard work and commitment,”  said Wyatt.

McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at