A contestant in the HVACR competition demonstrates expertise with a manifold gauge.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Most of the 14,000 attendees and 5,400 contestants at the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference may not have given a lot of thought to the 52 contestants and the dozens of judges from manufacturers and trade associations in the HVACR sector.

But HVAC folks were as vital to the success of the six-day event as any other aspect. That’s because outdoor temperatures started out hot and humid and only got hotter and more humid as the days went on. At one point, outdoor ambient in downtown Kansas City topped out at 101°F in sauna like conditions.

But inside the 790,000-square-foot H. Roe Bartle Hall where nearly all the 60 skilled and technical science contests, including HVACR, took place, what was described as a high blower air conditioning system with exhaust fans maintained comfortable temperature and humidity.

That was the result of technologies created within the HVACR industry, whose future rests in part on the high school and college/post-secondary students who had advanced to this national competition as the result of winning state and regional SkillsUSA events.

The 52 contestants spent eight hours one day being tested in eight different aspects of HVACR related to brazing skills, refrigerant component service, air measurement and troubleshooting, refrigerant recovery, and electrical troubleshooting, preceded the day before by a written exam.

Judges from industry manufacturers and trade associations watched each contestant and awarded points based on evaluating a system, showing proper service skills, the correct use of tools, and awareness of safety.

When points were tallied and the exam graded the following were awarded medals in the HVACR competition:

College/Post Secondary category
• Gold, Ryan Gallagher, Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Mich.

• Silver, Rafael Morales, Hennepin Tech College, Eden Prairie, Minn.

• Bronze, Jacob L. Schafer, Ben Franklin Career Center, Dunbar, W. Va.

High School category
• Gold, Michael Flores, Shawsheen High School, Billerica, Mass.

• Silver, Darrin W. Smith, Butler County Area Vo-Tech School, Butler, Pa.

• Bronze, Philip Patton, Minneapolis (Minn.) Community and Technical College.


A recurring theme in the HVACR competition, as well as many others taking place in Bartle Hall, was environmental awareness, with the need for contestants to demonstrate that they know how to detect leaks, recover refrigerant, and reintroduce the refrigerant to a system.

Said Timothy Lawrence, SkillsUSA executive director, “As I talk with students nationwide, I find one thing to be true: leaving the world a better place is a priority.”

He called the 2010 National Leadership and Skills Conference “our greenest national conference ever.

“You’ll notice more student events centered on sustainability and recycling activity. We demonstrate trends in environmental sustainability such as green building techniques, alternative fuels, and alternative energy sources.”

He also noted the “recycling and repurposing of many of the contest materials after the events.”

Pictured at the HVACR awards ceremony at SkillsUSA in Kansas City are, front row from left, Bob Mikell, Technical Committee member; High school medalists - Silver-Darrin W. Smith, Butler County Area Vo-Tech School (Pa.); Gold-Michael Flores, Shawsheen High School (Mass.); Bronze-Philip Patton, Minneapolis Community & Technical College (Minn.); and Lynne Bosse, Technical Committee member. Back row from left, Postsecondary/College medalists-Silver-Rafael Morales, Hennepin Technical College, Eden Prairie (Minn.); Gold-Ryan Gallagher, Ferris State University (Mich.); and, Bronze-Jacob L. Schafer, Ben Franklin Career Center (W.V.).


A technical committee of industry professionals was involved in the HVACR aspect of SkillsUSA. They are Lynn Bosse, Lennox Industries, co-chair; Bob Mikell, Carrier Corp., co-chair; Larry Banas, Emerson Climate Services LLC; Mike Eckstein, Refrigeration Service Engineers Society (RSES); Raymond Granderson, Rheem Manufacturing; Bob Henson, Harris Products Group; Les Karcher, Carrier; David King, Lennox Industries Inc.; Rick Lebeau, JKL Technical Sales; Warren Lupson, Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI); Jerry Meyer, Trane Co.; and Patrick Murphy, North American Technician Excellence (NATE).

A National Education Team consisted of Rick Dorssom, Hillyard Technical Center, St. Joseph, Mo., chair; George Hoeffner, Hillyard; and Todd Huxford, South Central College, North Mankato, Minn.

Also during the conference, Dorssom was presented a National Education Team Years of Service Award for his 15-year involvement.

In the Awards and Recognition publication issued by Skills USA, a number of supporters were listed within the HVACR sectors. They were AW Sperry Instruments; Bachrach Inc.; Carhartt; Cooper-Atkins Corp.; DeWalt Industrial Tool Co.; Ferris State University; First Choice Tool/Midwest Tool and Cutlery Co.; Fluke; General Tech International; Irwin Industrial Tool Co.; J.B. Industries; Kobalt Tools; Lenox; Lowe’s Companies Inc.; Malco Products Inc.; Refco; Ritchie Engineering, Yellow Jacket Division; Ruud Air Conditioning; Supco; and University of Northwestern Ohio.

The green emphasis throughout the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference is demonstrated within the HVACR sector in a competition involving leak checking and refrigerant recovery.


In his comments to attendees, SkillsUSA’s Lawrence noted that membership has grown to over 313,000, “the largest in our history.” In Kansas City, more than 96 contests took place, of which 60 were technical science such as HVACR.

The executive described SkillsUSA participants as those who “demonstrate the skills that will rebuild America, create jobs, and support communities.

“The best isn’t always found in the largest or most spectacular. It’s found in those who commit to always do better in their own performance and through service to others.”

For more information, visit www.skillsusa.org.

Sidebar: Getting the Gold

Ryan Gallagher’s road to the gold medal in the College/Postsecondary category in the HVACR competition at SkillUSA started five years ago at his uncle’s refrigeration contracting business.

Dan Boling was a Lansing, Mich., contractor who took his 16-year-old nephew on to work after school and during the summer months. “I liked working with my hands,” said Ryan. “There was job security. It’s the kind of work that can’t be shipped out overseas.”

Ryan proved to be good at what he did and even in high school started taking HVACR courses at Lansing Community College. He credits that program with helping grow his knowledge to the full spectrum of HVACR. “I could just expand my knowledge in class and in the labs.”

He got an associate’s degree from Lansing in 2009 and then enrolled at Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Mich., as a junior. He said he will return to Ferris for his senior year this fall.

He made it through state competitions to the Skills USA national championship last summer and finished fifth among 50 some contestants. This year, as a Ferris student, he took top honors and scored consistently high marks across a range of tests such as brazing skills, refrigerant component service, air measurement and troubleshooting, refrigerant recovery, and electrical troubleshooting, preceded by a written exam.

Ryan is working on staff this summer at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Mich., where he is focusing on controls technology.

He said he is not sure what his long-term career future holds, although it will be in HVACR. But, yes, he does hope to be back at SkillsUSA Nationals in 2011.

Publication date:08/02/2010