For the second year in a row Building and Construction Instructor Cory Casteel and Skills USA Advisor Jon Gianelli from Riverbank High School, along with about 10 students, headed to the Skills USA competition held at Delta College earlier this month.
Along with the camaraderie that the students built they also showed their skills in a Carpentry competition and an Introductory Woodworking competition. RHS junior Andrew Palomino and senior Brian Porter competed in Carpentry where they had to use a set of blueprints and build a dog house. Freshmen, Francisco Franco, Jose Rivera, Juan Reyes, Jesus Tovar, and Matthew Henshaw were in the Introductory Woodworking competition where they built a shelf with a three hour time limit.
The day began with an opening ceremony at 8 a.m. and then the competitions began at 9 a.m. which wrapped up about 12:15 p.m. According to Casteel there were about 430 students total participating that included not only high school students but middle school and Junior College students as well.
“Some schools have very big teams in many categories,” added Casteel. “We had more students sign up this year. For my events, carpentry and woodworking, there were more competitors from other schools than last year. This year we had the actual live woodworking event. The students did great.”
Participating in the competition for the first time Palomino placed sixth of about 15 total competitors in the Carpentry competition.
“There were nine people from one school competing,” said Palomino. “It was a really good experience. They gave us a blueprint and we had to follow that. The grade was on how close it was to the blueprint. I think I did pretty good. I completed three out of the four walls.”
Porter is a senior at RHS and this was his first participation in the Skills USA Carpentry competition. Although he didn’t place in the top 10 he had a fulfilling experience.
“First of all I want to say that it was very humbling,” said Porter. “It was very fun although I didn’t place very well. I still take it as a win because I learned a lot. The competition taught me to take my time. Although it wasn’t a group competition the people there made it feel like a group. It was cool having other people work against you but work with you at the same time.”
The students prepped with several hours outside of the regular school hours to prepare for the competition. Friday afternoon prior to the event the class loaded the school van with the tools. Afterwards the students organized a potluck lunch on their own with enough food for everyone to enjoy without any input from the instructors.
“What I am most pleased with is the level of commitment the students had,” stated Casteel. “I was also proud of how students from different cliques came together as a team. Students who would normally not interact at school or outside of school worked together and helped one another at practice.”
Freshman, Elias Amador participated in the Extemporaneous Speaking competition where he received third place. Nicholas Pulido and partner Matthew Palomino got second place in the Interactive Application and Video Game Development competition.
Amador had to present a speech that was about five to eight minutes long about the three things that make up the SkillsUSA framework which is teamwork, responsibility and communication. He received third place out of eight students.
“I think I did okay,” said Amador. “I could have done a lot better but I wasn’t prepared for it.”
“This is my second time,” said Gianelli. “Compared to last year, we have many more students participating in our club and it is getting more buy in from students each year.”
Pulido and Palomino presented their video game “Battle Valley” to the judges and explained their levels and applications as if they were the makers trying to sell it. Pulido was the 3D modeler and created items in the game like guns, a tower, and a fence.
“We had a summary of the whole concept of our game as if we wanted to make money off of it,” added Pulido. “We worked on a small map with a lot of action. We wanted it to be simple but unique. You are stuck in the Valley and you are trying to get out. A lot of other groups were more prepared than us. It was a really fun trip there.”
“It is challenging for the students not knowing what to expect,” stated Gianelli. “We encourage our freshman and sophomore students to participate even if they feel they will not win so that they can learn more about the competition and be competitive their junior and senior year. This club is a great opportunity for students to develop the skills necessary to be successful in careers and in life.”
Casteel agreed with the assessment.
“I think it is good for them to be challenged not as much with the hands on building part, but with being put outside their comfort zone in terms of interacting with other students, going to a new place, being in a situation where they can demonstrate leadership skills and putting in the time needed to be successful,” expressed Casteel.
The five student woodworking team built a shelf that they had blueprints for and many of them were first time competitors. Franco finished his shelf and took first place.
“It made me feel good,” said Franco. “It is the first time I have done it and I got first place. We were doing it for fun and our school got to go and my friends got to go.”
Reyes received third place and found that the most challenging part was getting the angles right on the shelf. Tovar likes building things in general and although he felt rushed in the beginning he enjoyed the competition. Rivera got second place in the woodworking competition and struggled with building the supports for the shelf but completed the task.
“I chose them (students) based on their technical skills and tried to instill in them the need to fulfill their commitment, but it doesn’t always happen,” said Casteel. “I think it is important because if we don’t give students these opportunities to try new things, who will? Not all students are athletes, scholars, actors, or musicians, but they all should have a chance to expand their skills in what they like and are good at.”