High school auto shop students, halt your engines!

Building bobsleds is where Gov. Mike Leavitt says you can make a difference. And educators from a handful of Wasatch Front area schools are embracing the idea, not to mention about a dozen more expressing interest."This sounds like way too much fun," Tom Raty, technology education teacher at Granite High School, said Wednesday at a program introduction at the Utah Winter Sports Park near Park City, attended by about 20 educators, Olympic and U.S. bobsled officials.

"There is almost no one at school we couldn't drag into this . . . the kids could not only build this but do fine tuning and learn to weld good enough that they'll trust them at 50 miles per hour."

Catching wind of a build-a-bobsled program being kicked around by Salt Lake Organizing Committee youth programs officials, Leavitt announced he will give a Governor's Bobsled Cup to top high school builders. He also vowed to ride the winning sled down the bobsled and luge track at the Utah Winter Sports Park, one of two tracks in the nation.

Leavitt's pledge came at the Utah Olympic Forum earlier this month.

"The governor giving us this opportunity by having your high school kids build sleds is the greatest news I've had all month," said Chris Lindsay, deputy executive director and national youth director of the U.S. Bobsled and Skeleton Federation in Lake Placid, N.Y., the site of the United States' other sled track.

The announcement sent youth programs officials scrambling to firm up the program, which allows high school students to taste the 2002 Winter Games by putting their skills to the test and aims to spark interest in bobsledding among high school athletes.

"There are students in our schools who will be in the Olympics. They just don't know it yet," said Bob Bills, SLOC youth sport director. "The state has built us some fantastic facilities. It would be a shame if we did not do something to create a legacy for Utah youth."

The program also will defray costs for junior training bobsleds, which total around $5,000. Kits for the bobsleds, which cost $2,500 apiece, would be funded by local sponsors and distributed to interested schools.

Car dealer Mark Miller has pledged to fund two bobsleds, Bills said.

Schools will assemble the sleds, which could bring in auto-body shop students, welding classes, arts classes for the paint job, science and math students for the physics portion - anything the schools can think of.

Bills had hoped to fetch five schools to build five sleds, which is all that can be used on the track shared with luge athletes.

But interest has surpassed expectations; state technology education specialist Jim Christensen says his office has received about 30 inquiries in three days.

"Schools . . . are trying to find things to focus (lessons) on the Olympics," Christensen said. "It's neat to see folks in applied technology be right in the middle of this."