LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Richard Chrisman admits he was a nervous wreck.
“I was just sitting there shaking after a while,” he said. “We had equipment problems. We had rule change problems.”
But now the information technology (IT) instructor at Northeast Community College can sit back and reflect on the outstanding finish of five of his students and others who competed in the 55th National Leadership and Skills Conference, sponsored by SkillsUSA, in Louisville, Kentucky, recently.
They were among 6,400 high school and college students from across the United States competing in 103 different trade, technical and leadership fields.
“Our students were really able to adapt and take things in stride,” Chrisman said. “To finish first and second in the nation is pretty good.”
That pretty good finish includes one gold and two silver medals, plus an additional 14 Northeast students who finished in the top 10 nationally.
The unit used by Robotics Urban Search and Rescue team members Miles Bossman of Crofton and Joseph Walsh of Ravenna uses a camera about as big as a human thumb.
In the competition, one student drives the robot and can see what the camera observes, but he cannot see the playing field. The other student, who can view most of the playing field, relays what he sees to his teammate.
Chrisman took two cameras to Louisville. Going in, the lens on the main camera was loose and eventually fell out of the unit the night before the competition. The team fortunately had a backup, but a wire on that camera broke.
THE STUDENTS spoke with Chrisman in a panic later that evening.
“We used super glue on both cameras, but I knew that wasn’t a good fix,” he said. “So I got on the phone to find this specialty camera and called a place across town and they said they had one.”
When Chrisman arrived at the store on the opposite end of Louisville, it didn’t actually have the camera he came for, but instead “they have a little cheap drone with a camera for $49. I handed the students the camera and told them, ‘It was the best I could do. Strap it on there and make it work.’ ”
In their hotel room, Chrisman worked with Bossman and Walsh to strip down the drone to salvage the camera.
“(The camera) actually worked better than our original cameras,” he said. “But they made it work, they adapted and they won with that.”
Bossman and Walsh earned the gold medal while teams from colleges in Tennessee and North Carolina took silver and bronze in the contest.
In addition, a week before the Kentucky competition, Chrisman lost his programmer on the Mobile Robotics Technology team, but he was able to substitute the position with a student who competed in another contest at the state SkillsUSA championships.
THE TEAM of Kyle Lentz of Hartington and Ahmed Abdulkadir of South Sioux City finalized the programming on the robot the night before the competition, however, on the day of the contest, they learned that once a robot was checked in students could not leave with it.
Chrisman said it had to do with a sponsor possibly writing a program rather than any of the students in the competition, which meant an original program would no longer operate the robot.
However, with a new program written, it worked out well for Abdulkadir and Lentz, who earned a silver medal. Colleges from Alabama and North Carolina took gold and bronze in the competition.
Chrisman said they got better with each of the program runs and driver control runs and ended up earning a high score.
“It was kind of cool to see Kyle and Ahmed adapt on the fly this time because of rule changes that we weren’t expecting,” he said. “And that’s what I’m really proud of — how these guys kept their cool and demonstrated their abilities on the playing field.”
Another Northeast IT student also did well at this year’s SkillsUSA competition. Kody Salak of Columbus earned a silver medal in Information Technology Services. Teams from Texas and Missouri placed first and third in the competition. A few days before, Salak placed second nationally in two events at the Phi Beta Lambda National Leadership Conference in San Antonio, Texas: computer concepts and networking concepts.
The SkillsUSA Championships are competitive events showcasing the best career and technical education students in the nation. Contests begin locally and continue through the state and national levels. This is a multi-million-dollar event that occupies a space equivalent to 20 football fields. More than 16,000 people — including students, teachers and business partners — participated in the weeklong event.
Nebraska students received 35 gold, silver and bronze medallions. Many also received prizes such as tools of their trade and/or scholarships to further their careers and education. In addition to the medalists, Nebraska had 36 top 10 finishers.
SEVERAL ADDITIONAL Northeast students placed in the top 10 nationally in other contests.
Joseph Stellato of Walton claimed fourth place in automotive service technology; Luke Jacobsen of Neligh, Emma Meisenheimer of Hartington, Madison Siedschlag of Pierce and Noah Wilcox of Norfolk placed fifth in broadcast news production; Riley Gomez of Rosalie was fifth in technical drafting; Connor Wuebben of Hartington was sixth in electrical construction wiring; Trevor Dempster of O’Neill and Sam Knoll of McCook, were sixth in audio-radio production; Derek Mahoney of Ericson finished seventh in computer programming; Garrett Reynolds of Wayne took eighth place in industrial motor control; and Alexa Dougherty of O’Neill, Trevor Dozler of David City and Caleb Hartmann of Fremont finished ninth in crime scene investigation.
Also competing at SkillsUSA for Northeast were Anthony Buresh of David City in heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration, Preston Dickau of Atkinson in automotive refinishing technology and Tanner Knight of Ord in diesel equipment technology.
The Northeast students qualified for the national competition at the SkillsUSA State Leadership and Skills Conference held this spring in Grand Island.
THE STUDENTS were accompanied by instructors Brian Anderson (media arts-broadcasting), Dave Beaudette (auto body technology), Richard Chrisman (information technology), Lynnette Frey (drafting), Tony Hoffman (electrical construction and control), Matt McCarthy (criminal justice) and Tony Milenkovich (diesel technology).
The philosophy of the SkillsUSA Championships is to reward students for excellence, to involve industry in directly evaluating student performance and to keep training relevant to employers’ needs.
Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in occupations such as electronics, computer-aided drafting, precision machining, medical assisting and culinary arts.
SkillsUSA is a partnership of students, teachers and industry representatives working together to ensure a skilled workforce and helping each student succeed.
A national student organization that serves students in high schools and college/technical schools, it provides quality education experiences for students in leadership, teamwork, citizenship and character development.