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Worcester students earn top awards in SkillsUSA contest

(July 26, 2013) Three Worcester County students took home medals from the 49th annual SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference in Kansas City, Kan., June 24-28.

The competition tests students on career and technical skills, from nursing and first aid to plumbing, engineering and major appliance repair.

Danny Beck, a rising senior at Worcester Technical High School, won a gold medal for the second consecutive year in the principles of engineering technology category.

Wyatt Brady, also a rising senior at Worcester Tech, earned a bronze medal in major appliance and refrigeration technology.

Jack Russo, who graduated from Worcester Tech this past spring, landed a bronze medal in HVACR (heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration).

“Only the top in Maryland go,” said Rich Stephens, a Welding Instructor at the high school and SkillsUSA advisor.

The national competition brings together Career and Technology Education (CTE) high school students from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Guam and the Virgin Islands to showcase their skills. Students qualified at the local, regional and state levels before advancing to the national competition.

In all, 18 Worcester County students traveled to Kansas to compete this year.

“It makes you want to pay attention in class a lot more,” Brady said of the SkillsUSA program. His major appliance repair competition involved around 10 stations where he worked with washers, dryers, gas ranges, refrigerators and other appliances, as well as tests in customer service and safety.

Brady had been working at Whaley Brothers Appliance in Berlin for three weeks before attending the national contest.

“It really gets them involved in their trades… (and) the leadership skills that go with it,” Stephens said. The CTE program “really turned around” Russo as a student, he said.

Russo’s HVAC competition included bronze soldering, calculating airflow, checking geothermal performance, troubleshooting gas furnaces and troubleshooting a refrigeration display case, as well as a written test.

He works at Royal Plus as an entry AC apprentice and said the company was “a big supporter,” paying most of his way to attend the SkillsUSA conference.

Beck, who wants to be an engineer and is interning at NASA this summer, said the SkillsUSA program has boosted his public speaking and writing skills.

“I’m definitely more confident presenting,” he said.

He had to deliver a 15-minute presentation on the physics of fiber optics to a three-judge panel and write a technical report on the topic to earn first place in his category.

“The technical essay part was definitely the most difficult,” Beck said. “A lot of the physics and math classes definitely helped with being able to put in terms the physics behind the technology because I watched my teachers do that.”

SkillsUSA Maryland has a membership of 5,000 high school students who participate in conferences throughout the year, including two statewide conferences aimed to prepare students for the national competition.

In all, Maryland students took home 24 medals from 84 career and technical categories in the 2013 SkillsUSA national competition.

Three Worcester students earned top prizes in the national SkillsUSA competition in Kansas this June. Jack Russo, front left-center, and Wyatt Brady, front right-center, won bronze medals and Danny Beck, not pictured, won his second SkillsUSA gold medal. Also pictured are SkillsUSA facilitators Richard Stephens, front left, and Floyd Azbell, front right, Assistant Principal Scot Tingle, back left, and Principal Caroline Bloxom, all of Worcester Technical High School. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Witherow)

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