What a sight! Nearly 20,000 visitors and more than 600 entrants filled RIM Park to capacity April 30 and May 1 for the 18th annual Ontario Technological Skills Competition (OTSC).
"It's a fantastic atmosphere," said Kevin Denomme, who teaches architecture at Conestoga. "There's hundreds and hundreds of people competing, and you have no sense of how well or poorly they do until the next day at the medal ceremony."
Conestoga enjoyed outstanding success this year as 18 of 29 students entered in the competition won post-secondary medals for their knowledge and skills in a variety of categories. This brings Conestoga's 16-year medal count to 156.
Mark Schuetzkowski, who teaches electrical programs at Conestoga, says competitions like this are very important.
"It shows students there's something beyond what we do in class," he said. "Not to mention it looks great on their resume, and shows they're interested in more than just getting their license or ticket."
"I'm a firm believer in competition," he said. "It validates everything we're doing and teaching the kids."
Tom Franks, who teaches electronics at Conestoga, said faculty at the college are great at recruiting students and getting them excited about the competition.
"It shows why we're number one," he said, referring to the recent Key Performance Indicator (KPI) survey results. "It's a top opportunity for students, and we're very fortunate to have faculty who are so involved."
He added it can be a lot of extra work for faculty; some spend upwards of 400 hours per year getting students involved in the skills competitions.
Faculty say it's worth it, though.
"It's great seeing the students being successful," said Schuetzkowski. "It really boosts their confidence."
Tony Kattenhorn, who teaches Mechanical CADD at Conestoga and also chairs that competition, said he sees the students improve each year.
"I keep having to make the competitions more and more difficult, because the kids are getting better," he said.
He added the competition is a good gauge, because it shows what level the college is operating at compared to other schools.
John Tielemans, who teaches mechatronics at Conestoga, said it gives students an appreciation for other fields, and an appreciation for versatility and adaptability.
"It really is a great opportunity for them to see how other students work, and how they have different approaches," he said. "It gives them an idea of the possible real-world job competition they may be up against."
Franks said competitions like this also help give Conestoga a high profile in the community, and to plug college education as an option to younger students.
"We have an opportunity to connect with kids from high school at these competitions," he said. "It shows them what's ahead."
Rick Fry, who teaches machining programs at Conestoga, agrees.
"It promotes the college, it's a good mark for us," he said. "I think it makes the college shine a little brighter."
Denomme said despite all the other positives, his favourite part of the competition is always when his students win medals.
"It's exciting going to the ceremony and seeing the student's name and the college's name up there," he said. "There are usually 600-700 people in attendance; it really is like an Olympic medal ceremony."
The gold medal winners qualify to be part of Team Ontario at the Skills Canada competition, which takes place June 6-9 in Saskatoon.
Conestoga's gold medal winners are as follows:
• Shawn Finan of Kitchener is a student in the General Machinist program at Conestoga and won his medal in the computer numerical control machining category.
• Zachary Hewitt of Pembroke took gold in cabinetmaking. He is in the Woodworking Technology co-op program at Conestoga.
• Michael Jordan of Kitchener, a student in the Electronics Engineering Technician co-op program, earned gold in the electronics event.
• Michael McLellan of Mount Forest is a degree-program student in Integrated Advanced Manufacturing Technologies. His gold medal came in the event dealing with mechanical computer-aided design and drafting.
• Ryan Mlodozenec of Kitchener topped the field in the industrial mechanic millwright competition, and he is in that program at Conestoga.
• Cody Noble of Fergus won the precision machining event. He is in Conestoga's Tool and Die Maker program.
• Pat Terwoord of Chepstow took gold in architectural computer-aided design and drafting. He studies Construction Engineering Technology - Architecture at Conestoga.
The silver medal winners are as follows:
• Jamie Roberts of Kitchener is a student in the Woodworking Technology - Architectural Millwork program. He competed in the cabinetmaking event.
• Andrew St. Cyr of Waterloo won his medal in welding. He is in the Manufacturing Engineering Technology - Welding and Robotics program at Conestoga.
Winning bronze medals are the following:
• Dave Berg of Orillia (a student in the Mechanical Engineering Technology - Robotics and Automation program) won a medal in the mechatronics competition.
• Steve Bithell of Cambridge (Construction Engineering Technology - Architecture program) took his medal in the architectural computer-aided design and drafting event.
• Matt Cronin of Mitchell (Industrial Mechanic Millwright program) took third in the industrial mechanic millwright event.
• Michael Da Maren of Guelph (Electrician, Construction and Maintenance program) won a medal in the industrial wiring contest.
• Pred Gutovic of Kitchener (Electronics Engineering Technician co-op program) finished third in the electronics event.
• Josh Kubassek of Bright (Mechanical Engineering Technology - Robotics and Automation program) won his medal in the mechanical computer-aided design and drafting competition.
• Remo Schlumpf of Ethel (General Carpenter program) finished third in the carpentry - individual category.
• Xander Snyder of Waterloo (Mechanical Technician - Tool and Die/Tool Maker program) won his medal in the precision machining event.
• Jeffery Wemp of Waterloo (Mechanical Engineering Technology - Robotics and Automation program) took the third-place medal in the mechatronics category, as part of a two-person team with Dave Berg.
In addition to these medal performances, two other Conestoga students earned certificates of achievement in so-called demonstration categories - new categories being reviewed and considered for medal status in future events. A second-place certificate in information technology office application went to Josue Perez, a student in the Business
Administration - Materials and Operations Management program, who is from Kitchener. A third-place certificate of achievement went to Mark Lebel of Brantford in truck and coach mechanic. He is in Conestoga's Truck and Coach Technician program.