Chris Kuhn (right foreground) works with other students during the brazing competition at the 2011 SkillsUSA Ohio Regional Challenge. Kuhn won an individual challenge in Canton, Ohio, then won the Ohio SkillsUSA competition, earning the right to compete in the national competition in Kansas City.

NORTH CANTON, Ohio - The 2011 SkillsUSA Ohio Regional Challenge was held March 26 at the W.R. Timken Center, Stark State College of Technology. The Akron Canton Area Chapter of the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) has sponsored the regional competition for high school students since about 2002.

Doug Carpenter, a local contractor who chaired the 2011 Regional Challenge, said, “Four out of the last five years an Akron student went all the way through to the National SkillsUSA competition.”

This year was no exception, as a student from a nearby high school competed in the Akron event, went on to win the SkillsUSA Ohio state competition, and now has his eyes set on the national competition in Kansas City, Mo., June 19-24.

Chris Kuhn will be competing in Kansas City. He is a senior at Lorain County Joint Vocation School (JVS) in Oberlin, Ohio. He placed third overall in the recent regional competition, winning the sheet metal category which prepared him to take the next step in Columbus, Ohio, where the state SkillsUSA competition was held on April 29. Kuhn also won the Ohio state competition as a junior in 2010.


Creating a winning combination between academia and the HVACR industry has been a paramount endeavor for the local area contractors around Akron-Canton. They want to hire young people and have found a way to make sure the students are excited about the industry. Carpenter, who has chaired ACCA’s regional event since 2005, said, “We work very closely with the schools throughout the year, helping to ensure that what is being taught and learned is also what’s applicable in the real world.” Carpenter and Bruce Beckwith, president of the Akron Canton Area ACCA Chapter, have both been integrally involved with the regional competition since its inception.

Beckwith said, “We work mainly with the high schools as far as setting up the competition. It is a good stepping off point for them to get some experience through the competition and to find out what they don’t know. They may be going through school and thinking they are doing OK, but the competition gives them an even better understanding of areas that they need to improve upon before starting their careers.”

The recent event pitted about 35 students from seven schools in five categories of competition. Schools represented were: Akron Public Schools; Auburn Career Center, Concord Township, Ohio; Choffin Career Center, Youngstown, Ohio; Lorain County JVS; Medina County Career Center, Medina, Ohio; Polaris Career Center, Middleburg Heights, Ohio; and R.G. Drage Technical Career Center, Massillon, Ohio.

Several students compete in the troubleshooting challenge during the 2011 SkillsUSA Ohio Regional Challenge as a judge watches over the group. The event was hosted by Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio. The school offers a two-year associate degree in HVAC Technology and a one-year state-accredited HVAC Certificate.

Kuhn won the Sheet Metal Category of the regional competition. Other winners included: Shawn Strickler, Akron Public Schools, in Soft Skills; Collin Branatelli, Polaris Career Center, in Electrical; Travis Tormasi, R.G. Drage Career Technical Center, in Component ID and Troubleshooting; and Matt Ousley, R.G. Drage, in Brazing. The overall regional competition winner in total points was Timothy Mann Jr., Polaris Career Center. Mann received a $1,000 scholarship to Stark State College and a $100 cash prize. Both were provided courtesy of the ACCA Akron Canton Area Chapter.

Jack Adams is a contractor in Akron, and designed the sheet metal competition task. Adams, a former student in the Akron area and a former SkillsUSA Regional Challenge participant, said, “I wanted to make them [sheet metal tasks] simple enough to be completed in the time frame allotted, but challenging. The shop drawings the students must follow are very realistic.”

All students were required to compete in all five skills categories. In the sheet metal fabrication competition, students were handed shop drawings from which they constructed a small fitting, construction of which required the creation of crossbreaks and drives. Contestants were judged on safety, neatness/quality of project, technical, and professionalism.

Students were not allowed to ask anyone for assistance during the competition, and were not even allowed to ask for directions to the various rooms where the five challenges were staged. They were provided a map of the Stark Campus and sent off to begin the first challenge at 9 a.m. Only three minutes down time was scheduled between tasks. If a student decided to take a bathroom break between scheduled challenges, and walked in two minutes late, then his time to complete his next project just got two minutes shorter.

Timothy Mann Jr., a student at Polaris Career Center, Middleburg Heights, Ohio, accepts his first place award from local Akron area contractor Bruce Beckwith, president of the Akron Canton Area ACCA Chapter. Mann accumulated 429 of a possible 500 points to win Best Overall Individual Student in the 2011 SkillsUSA Ohio Regional Challenge.

One of the judges said, “Nobody is around to hold your hand on the jobsite. You have to get to work on time, and you have to get the job done on time.”

All of the tasks displayed elements of the real world, and one other interesting twist occurred in the electrical challenge. Upon opening the electrical box students found six black wires - forget about the color coding they may have studied in the classroom. A smiling judge said, “They better know how to use their meters.”

The SkillsUSA Ohio Regional Challenge involved many volunteers from the ACCA Chapter, Stark State College, and included the support of local sponsors: Webb Supply, The K Company, Robertson Heating Supply, Wolff Brothers, Refrigeration Sales Corporation, Buckeye Heating and A/C, and Famous Supply.

Jerry Klinesmith, HVAC Coordinator at Stark, hosted the event on behalf of the college. Stark has been involved with the Regional Challenge for two years. Klinesmith said, “I like the quality of the students we’re getting out of the high schools. We hope that our hosting of this event also gives students a flavor of our school, and they may want to come here some day.”

Publication date:06/06/2011