SPRINGFIELD – Two Grundy Area Vocational Center students took first place at the SkillsUSA 2014 State Championship held in Springfield earlier this month.
From April 3 to 5, GAVC competed in Computer Maintenance Technology, Welding, Adobe Photoshop, Preschool Bulletin Board, Cosmetology, Crime Scene Investigations, and Fire Science. The two students who took first were in Welding and Computer Maintenance Technology.
Cody Meiferdt, a senior at Coal City High School, sparked an interest in welding and has spent a lot of time learning to perfect the techniques needed at GAVC in the past two years.
Meiferdt was one of 14 students representing GAVC at SkillsUSA last weekend.
“We work really hard in class,” welding instructor Jim Cebulski said. “All the students stay after school for many hours and work very hard to retain the information they need.”
Meiferdt took first place in the state competition out of 20 vocational and technical high school students representing Illinois schools who offer welding.
“He’s put in the most work between the beginning of the year and now,” Cebulski said. “If you asked me at the beginning if he had a chance to win state, I’d have said probably not.”
But Meiferdt said he was confident he’d place in the top three, he just didn’t expect first.
Meiferdt put in six or more hours of practice a day to prepare for the state competition.
“I had no clue I’d win,” he said. “I wanted this really bad and the hard work paid off.”
He had never lit a torch prior to starting at GAVC last year, and he didn’t know that it would lead him to a career, one he hadn’t thought about until then.
Meiferdt received a School Training Apprenticeship with Pipefitter Local 597, and he said he knows this is what he is meant to do.
This isn’t the first competition he’s won though. He previously won a competition through Local 597 that pits high school and college students together against one another.
“He won the Local 597 pipefitters competition and that surprised a lot of us,” Cebulski said. “That lit a fire I’ve never seen before with him.”
At the SkillsUSA competition students are judged on two projects that include MIG Welding and Stick Welding as well as oxy-fuel cutting.
“We’re given a blueprint and metal cut to size, and we have to put it together,” Meiferdt said. “It’s definitely not easy.”
After about six hours of competition, Meiferdt found out he won and that his classmates took the other top eight positions.
Computer Maintenance Technology
Devin Ryan, a junior at Morris Community High School, has been interested in computers since he was a small child.
“I think the first book I read was the Windows 98 installation manual,” Ryan said.
It wasn’t surprising to anyone that knows him that his interest took him to the Computer Maintenance Technology class at GAVC this year. What may be surprising to some is that he took first at the SkillsUSA state competition in his first year in the program.
“As a junior, it’s an extremely big thing to win,” his computer teacher, Leanne Dammann, said. “We haven’t covered everything in class yet. Most students don’t compete until their second year.”
Dammann said it wasn’t a surprise to her though, and admits she can’t take a whole lot of credit for his win, saying he knew a lot before he got to her class.
The real surprise was when it was announced he took second place at the competition, only to find out when he got to school on Monday he actually won the competition.
“They had a scoring mix-up, and on Monday, I found out I got first,” he said. “Now I’m waiting to get my prizes.”
One of his prizes includes a Google Nexus 7, a 7-inch tablet.
Ryan said the most difficult aspect to the competition was the customer service portion.
“Customer service was awkward,” he said. “A guy walks in, and I had to fill out an order form based on asking the right questions.”
He said the stress level brought on by the competition made that module the most difficult, while the others were all equally easy for him.
Modules included removing a virus, fixing a system that wouldn’t boot up, andfixing a script error.
Ryan currently works as a developer for Minecraft Survival Games, a Minecraft mod server based in California, and said his job as a developer made the script error easy to determine.
“The boot module was easy as well. I had to fix a system that wasn’t booting. I did it in eight minutes,” he said.