About 20 career and technical students from across Oklahoma put what they learned in the classroom to the test Thursday in the carpentry classroom at Southern Oklahoma Technology Center as judges watched closely.
Students arrived at SOTC early in the morning with tools and safety goggles packed. All had previously placed in regional competitions to earn a spot to the 2014 Oklahoma State SkillsUSA cabinetmaking contest.
In that classroom, students competed against each other and raced against a five-hour clock to create a router cabinet, the selected project for the state final.
Each competition requires the students to create a new project, and prior to handing out the blueprints and material lists, student had no knowledge of what they would be asked to make, said SkillsUSA judge Joey Buck.
“It is crazy how many different cabinets we will have at the end,” Buck said. “Each person will add a different detail or interpret something very differently. They are all trying to make the same project, but only a few really match the blueprints.”
Students are given five hours to complete the project. During that time, they can only use the material provided, and cannot ask instructors for assistance, Buck said.
SkillsUSA is a national student organization for high school and college students enrolled in career education programs that help develop skills, personal growth, leadership and technical proficiencies. There are SkillsUSA competitions in a variety of career programs.
Buck, who is a past student at SOTC and participated in SkillsUSA cabinetmaking contests where he earned a bid to nationals in 2009-10, said his job as a judge is to make sure the students are following safety procedure and showing strong craftsmanship.
Two students from SOTC competed in the competition. They are Blake Jendusa, a senior from Plainview High School, and Palemon Rios, a junior from Sulphur High School.
The competition marked the first time in history that SOTC had hosted a state SkillsUSA contest. Typically, state contests are in Oklahoma City or Tulsa.
Larry Bullingham, representing CareerTech, said SOTC was chosen because of the “impressive” facility. About 20 students were able to work on their cabinet projects and use the various equipment around the room as judges observed.
During the contest, students diligently worked reading drawings, cutting parts, using table saws, hand drills and more to complete the project. As the timer hit five hours, students had to step away from their router cabinets. Projects not completed would be judged.
“In the end, all you are looking for is the measurements,” Bullingham said. “If you have a measurement off, you lose a point.”
Judges look for accurately assembled and sanded cabinets as well as adjustments meeting the blueprint specifications, Bullingham said.
Unlike typical competitions, the students have to wait days before hearing the results. Winners will be announced at the state SkillsUSA awards ceremony in Tulsa on April 29.