An Olympic test of their skills

Apprentices compete head-to-head to show mastery of building trades.

Apprentices compete head-to-head to show mastery of building trades.

February 10, 2003|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

In his job with the City of Frederick, when it comes to electricity John Sanders does "mostly troubleshooting and repair," he said.

On Saturday, he was asked to do that, and more. He installed meters and panel boxes. He bent pipes.

He did it all well enough to win the electrical category at the 2003 Cumberland Valley Chapter Associated Builders & Contractors Local Skills Olympics.

First prize was a trip to San Diego to compete in the 18th Annual ABC National Craft Olympics on March 12-15.


Sanders will be accompanied by Mark Keefer of Heilig's Plumbing & Electrical, who won the plumbing category, and Jason Dungan of Nelson Plumbing & Heating, who won the HVAC (heating, ventilation, air-conditioning and refrigeration) category.

Saturday's competition at Washington County Technical High School in Hagerstown was for apprentices. Most were in the fourth and final year of the program, working at jobs while attending classes.

Twenty-one students competed in four categories.

Jim Rock, president of General Contractor Inc., in Zullinger, Pa., and chairman of the apprenticeship committee, said winning alone wasn't enough to qualify for the national competition. Each winner had to score at least 85 percent on a written test given in class the prior week.

"Every one of you - I could see you going to the national (competition)," Joan L. Warner, the executive director of the Cumberland Valley Chapter, told the contestants at an awards ceremony afterward.

She encouraged the three contestants in the carpentry category - all third-year students - to try again at next year's local Skills Olympics. The 2004 national competition will be in Hawaii, she said.

The Cumberland Valley Chapter, which covers parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, has had about 15 national champions, plus about nine second-place contestants and nine third-place contestants, Rock said.

"We're known for our training," he said.

Fourth-year student Lester Kenny of Hagerstown said the judges in the electrical division scrutinized his neatness, quality and, of course, if the project he completed worked when he was finished.

His tasks included working on an overhead service, an electrical panel, a ground-fault interrupter plug and a start/stop switch with a relay. He said it took about six hours to finish everything.

Some things he had done before, some he hadn't.

"You just have to take your best shot," said Kenny, who works for Ceco Electric.

Richard Mowers of Brechbill and Helman in Chambersburg, Pa., was one of two judges in the carpentry division.

Students were given a blueprint in the morning and had to complete it by mid-afternoon. It included a floor assembly, a wall assembly, a door frame, rafters and two small steps.

Mowers said the students fared well, but he noticed a few backward headers and door jambs. He said he was looking for quickness, workmanship and accuracy.

After each contestant finished, Mowers stepped into the workspace with a clipboard and a tape measure, checking each length, width and gap.

The HVAC students were given nine breakdowns to troubleshoot - for example, an oil burner or a programmable thermostat - and one soldering project, according to HVAC coordinator Kenneth Plank.

Keefer said he felt prepared in the plumbing category and credited his teacher for getting him ready.

He admitted that San Diego was on his mind in advance.

"I really wanted to try and do that," he said. "I'm happy."

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