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Education

July 2, 2013

Wallace State students compete at 49th annual SkillsUSA national conference

Lowry finishes second in CNC competition

Wallace State machining student Mark Lowry of Vinemont won second place in the CNC Turning competition at 49th Annual National SkillsUSA tournament in Kansas City, Mo. last week.

This was Lowry’s second year competing at the national level.  He finished in third place in the precision machining category last year.

“It was a wonderful experience,” Lowry said.  “Since it was my second year, I knew what to expect but it was still hard work, and the competition was difficult against some really intelligent, great machinists.  First place was my goal, but I’m very proud to have finished second.”

Lowry already has a job in his field, as a CNC machinist and programmer at Wilson Machine and Welding in Cordova, but plans to complete his associate degree in Machining and a Tool and Die certificate at Wallace State this fall, and is interested in expanding his education to areas such as engineering to make him a better machinist.

“Mark excelled in his competition,” said Jonathan Minyard, the Wallace State machining instructor who accompanied the college’s group of competitors to the competition. “He was very confident and prepared for a very tough contest, and we are very proud of him.”

Wallace State was well represented at the tournament with seven state SkillsUSA state winners, six of whom advanced to the national competition including Lowry.

Jarod Salter made history for the college’s automotive service technology program at the SkillsUSA state competition, becoming the first from the department to earn a gold medal and qualify for the national tournament.

“I did the best I could at the state competition. I was daunted by all of it to begin with but as I began to go through it, I realized it wasn’t as nearly as challenging as I had made it out to be,” said Salter, 24, of Holly Pond. “I was very excited and thoroughly surprised I came out on top. I’m honored to be the first one from our department to go to nationals and excited I could give (department head) Stephen Burgett his first winner. I take a lot of pride in it.”

Along with Salter, competing for Wallace State at the national SkillsUSA competition were Charli Smith of Trafford in Technical Math, B.G. Owens of Cullman in Electronics Technology, Daniel Riggins of Arab in Precision Machining, Dennis Butts of Bremen in CNC Milling.

Tanner Corum of Hartselle was also a first-place state winner in Men’s Haircutting and Design, but there’s no national competition in that category.

Wallace State students continue to make it an annual tradition of sending multiple competitors to the national event.

“Many different people commented to me about how we are always well prepared on the national level. They’re always impressed with our demeanor and respectful manner,” said Jonathan Minyard, a Wallace State tool and die instructor who accompanies the students to Kansas City, Mo. “We’re glad we’ve had a full load of students going again this year.”

Minyard instructs three students who advanced to the national event, including Lowery who made his second appearance in as many years.

“We’re thrilled our students come in and have a desire to compete. It helps promote our program and it helps us go out and recruit students to our program,” Minyard said. “More than anything it makes us proud that we are doing a good enough job as instructors to see these students succeed and be able to compete on a national level. It shows us it means something to them, and that they’re interested in going beyond the basics. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to be a SkillsUSA winner on any level.”

Butts, 30, was excited about representing the college and the computer numerical control department.

“I felt it was a real intense state competition, and that helped me prepare for the national event,” Butts said.

With the exception of Smith in Technical Math, each Wallace State student had written and performance tests to complete at the national tournament. At the state level, Salter had to complete automotive tasks in areas like brake inspection, drivability, air conditioning, steering and suspension and instrument measurements, among others.

Smith’s assignments were strictly be on paper. She had two hours to finish 30-40 math questions. Related technical math consists of an assortment of algebra, geometry, precalculus and some calculus equations.

Each Wallace State national competitor seeking to join Joey Foster of welding (2009) and Matthew O’Neal of machine tool technology (2003) as Wallace State SkillsUSA national champions.

SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations. SkillsUSA serves more than 300,000 students and instructors annually. The organization has 13,000 school chapters in 54 state and territorial associations.

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