Students do well in national contest

Published 9:08 pm Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Two students from Suffolk’s Pruden Center for Industry and Technology were put to the test recently in a national competition.

Andrew Hamm and Benjamin Norfleet, both students at the Pruden Center, spent hours at their work stations to complete projects in their respective areas of study — carpentry and welding — at the National Skills USA competition.

“I had a lot of fun,” Hamm said. “We built a shed, like the one at regionals, but it was more difficult.”

Skills USA is an association of more than 300,000 students and instructors nationwide whose mission is to help students become effective workers and leaders. More than 13,000 schools compete in regional, state and the national competitions each year through the organization.

Participating students receive their project instructions at the start of the competition and have a time limit during which they must finish. The projects require an advanced skill set and are evaluated based on a participant’s assembly, workmanship, appearance, safety and use of tools.

During the competition, both the teens encountered unexpected materials in their projects, but they still managed to finish well.

Hamm placed 14th in the nation for carpentry, and Norfleet placed 8th in welding, according to his instructor Tom Shirk.

“After the project was over, [Norfleet] said he had a bad day, and he did a little bit,” Shirk said of Norfleet. “It was still good work, but they threw in some pieces of pipe we hadn’t anticipated. All the placings are about one-hundredths of a point difference when you’re scoring that high.”

Because he was one of the top 12 competitors, however, Norfleet will have the opportunity to participate in the international competition, if he qualifies.

“The first step is doing a few projects in your lab,” Shirk said. “You ship them in, and they use that to whittle the selections down. The problem is that takes a lot of money.”

Shirk is confident of Norfleet’s abilities if he is able to compete.

“I have no doubt he’ll be successful,” Shirk said. “He’s good. He’s very good. He doesn’t just have good skill, but he has a good head on his shoulders about it, too.”

Norfleet is the second welding student from the Pruden Center to attend the national competition, and he outranked the first student, who placed 13th.

During the past 25 years, eight building trades students have taken home the state’s gold medal and advanced to nationals. Hamm was the ninth student to advance to nationals for his area of study.

Both students received job offers at the state competition, and Hamm will begin working with the Union after graduation. Norfleet received two job offers after the state competition but has opted to work with his father’s heavy construction company.