When students compete in July, there’s not much of a welcoming committee at school when they get back home. But the honor brought to Charlo High School by the Skills USA team’s national gold medal shines brightly nonetheless.
Charlo won the gold in Chapter Display, a complex project that demonstrates a broad set of team member talents. Their 2018 entry involved every step of designing and manufacturing a seven-foot steel tower that supported a computer monitor and camera, with coaching by Industrial Arts teacher Stan Atchley. Assisted by Microsoft retiree John Cote, the team used a facial tracking program and programmed a Photoshop-type “filter” to overlay on the person’s screen image. The filter resizes as he or she moves closer or farther from the camera. For the year’s theme, “Job Ready on Day One,” a viewer can choose to be portrayed as one of several professionals, such as welder, nurse, or firefighter.
Anneliese DeGrandpre, Paige Bauer and Sander Perry presented the project at the Louisville, Ky., event, which included needing to be able to explain every step of how it was built. But like most great accomplishments, a bevy of others helped make it possible.
THE PROJECT was the brainchild of Bella Hawk and Brady Fryberger, who got the ball rolling four months before the state contest. Perry also presented at state, with Landers Smith and Toby Odom. The manufacturing process and presentation development involved these students plus Kelton Andersen, Jessica Dennison, Brock Tomlin, Chad Andersen, Brooklyn Foust, Kaitlin Cox and Adriana Johnson.
Teammates’ featured specialties included CAD design, plasma cutting and 3-D printing, steel manufacturing and rolling, welding, auto-grade painting, computer coding, decal design, project records notebook, and public speaking, besides the incredible problem-solving and time-management shown by a team that includes many school athletes and students working jobs after school.
Contributing to the esprit de corps that made for successful teamwork was a long-standing relationship. “We work really well together,” said Hawk and Smith of the entire team. “We’ve known each other all our lives.” Everyone was proud to share others’ accomplishments, not just tout their own.
SKILLS USA is an international competitive organization that supports and promotes “career and technical education (CTE) in the nation’s classrooms ... representing 130 different occupational areas.” Montana students compete every April at MSU-Northern in Havre. Events include trades such as welding, carpentry, pin design, leather work, 3-D printing, CAD design, early childhood education, crime investigation, and many others.
Charlo has consistently brought home state gold in many categories, including Chapter Display for the past eight years. Not all are hands-on technical fields. For example, senior Wills DeGrandpre is reigning state champ for 5- to 7-minute Prepared Speech, three years running. He was only able to attend national competition as a freshman, placing seventh. He will compete in 2019 for his last time before graduation.
Wills’ secret? “I put as much time into it as I can, and work hard,” he said.
No word yet on whether a Chapter Display entry will happen this year, but count on this Charlo program for professional quality tradespeople for the future.