A wiring challenge faces a contestant in the HVACR competition at SkillsUSA.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Contractors trying to find a good, qualified technician might want to try this test: Give the prospective employee eight challenging tasks with strict time limits in every aspect of HVACR, after the candidate has already taken the Industry Competency Exam (ICE) and written a resume. Have the candidate's every move watched over by the top technical people in the industry. And have some 13,000 persons looking over the tech's shoulder.

Far-fetched, you say? But that is just what close to 50 high school and college-age persons went through one day this summer in the HVACR component of the SkillsUSA championship, which was part of the 42nd annual National Leadership and Skills Conference.

The HVACR techs had succeeded at local, state, and regional competitions and were among thousands taking part in 84 hands-on skill and leadership competitions - all at the same time throughout Bartle Hall in the Kansas City Convention Center. It was open to the public, and a steady stream of people passed by throughout the eight hours of competition.

There was yet another measurement of the techs' ability to concentrate: While they were taking air measurements, troubleshooting a supermarket display case, or concentrating on tricky brazing procedures, one of their next-door neighbors on the contest floor, the culinary arts contestants, produced baking aromas that were far more pleasingly distracting than any sheet metal clang or plumbing bang.

Overall, the HVACR competition included brazing, refrigerant component service, air measurement and troubleshooting, refrigerant recovery, electrical troubleshooting, ice machines, refrigerated display cases, small package HVAC units, furnaces, and split-system air conditioners.

When the judges, made up of industry veterans, had totaled up the scores, six future techs took top honors.

In the post-secondary category, winners are Chad Fordham, Utah Valley State College (Orem, Utah), gold; Nathan Eillson, Bevill State Community College (Sumiton, Ala.), silver; and Eduardo Limon, Community College of Southern Nevada (North Las Vegas), bronze.

Winners in the HVACR sector of SkillsUSA are flanked by Technical Committee co-chairs Rob Dohse, left, of Carrier Corp. and Lynn Bosse of Lennox Industries. Front row secondary/high school winners are, from left, Joseph Pike, silver; Anthony Denning, gold; and Kasey Campbell, bronze. Back row post-secondary/college winners are, from left, Nathan Eillson, silver; Chad Fordham, gold; and Eduardo Limon, bronze.

In the secondary (high school) category, winners are Anthony Denning, Southern Nevada Vocational Technical Center (Las Vegas), gold; Joseph Pike, Meade County Area Technology Center (Brandenburg, Ky.), silver; and Kasey Campbell, Spotsylvania (Pa.) Career and Technical Center, bronze.

"Students were here because of their skills, attitude, and dedication to excellence," said Timothy Lawrence, SkillsUSA executive director. "They are among the best of the best at this national showcase of talent."

The one-day competition was centerpiece of the National Leadership and Skills Conference. The overall event was almost a week long, starting with a keynote address at the opening session by Kwame Jackson, a finalist from "The Apprentice" TV show, and ending with an awards ceremony, with contestants seated by states, creating a raucous, political-like convention atmosphere.

Students, teachers, and supporters also could attend dozens of seminars on leadership and technical presentations in their areas of interest, such as a talk on IAQ by David King of Lennox Industries.

The basics of brazing come under the watchful eye of a judge.

More than 100 exhibitors on hand included branches of the military, trade schools and colleges, trade associations (such as the Refrigeration Service Engineers Society), and companies with such familiar names as Harley-Davidson, Supercuts, and Whirlpool.

The exhibits spilled out onto the streets adjoining the convention center, with a range of exhibitors conducting competitions, including one called "Drill or No Drill," kind of a tool-related version of the game show Deal or No Deal.

The HVACR technical committee consisted of co-chairs Lynn Bosse, Lennox; and Rob Dohse, Carrier; along with Larry Banas, Emerson Climate Technologies; Raymond Granderson, Rheem Manufacturing; Bob Henson, J.W. Harris Co. Inc.; James Knutson, Scotsman Ice Systems Inc.; Rick Lebeau, JKL Technical Sales; Jerry Meyer, Ingersoll-Rand/Climate Control Technical Learning; Bob Mikell, Carrier Corp.; Patrick Murphy, North American Technician Excellence; and Renee Tomlinson, RSES.

The National Education Team for HVACR consisted of chair Rick Dorssom, Charles Dew, and George Hoeffner, all of Hillyard Technical Center (St. Joseph, Mo.); and Todd Huxford, South Central Technical College (Mankato, Minn.).

Even in the exhibit area at SkillsUSA, attendees were given a chance to try some hands-on procedures.

Sidebar: Helping Hands

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - A large number of industry manufacturers and trade associations contributed personnel, equipment, and other services to assist in the HVACR portion of the National Leadership and Skills Conference. SkillsUSA listed the following:

  • Air Conditioning & Refrigeration Institute

  • AW Sperry Instruments

  • Bacharach Inc.

  • Carhartt Inc.

  • Channellock

  • Cooper-Atkins Corp.

  • DeWALT Power Tools

  • Fastenal Co.

  • First Choice Tool/Midwest Tool and Cutlery Co.

  • Flow Control Division, Emerson Climate Technologies

  • General Tech International

  • Gorgonz

  • Hussmann, an Ingersoll-Rand Business

    “Drill or No Drill” was one manufacturer’s variation on the “Deal or No Deal” TV show.

  • HVAC Excellence

  • HVAC Learning Solutions, Lennox Industries

  • Imperial Division, Stride Tool Inc.

  • IRWIN Industrial Tool Co.

  • J.B. Industries

  • J.W. Harris

  • Johnstone Supply

  • Lennox Industries Inc.

  • Malco Products Inc.

  • Megapro

  • MSC Corp.

  • National Center for Construction Education and Research

  • Refrigeration Service Engineers Society

  • Rheem Air Conditioning Products

  • Smith Equipment

  • Stanley Works

  • Turbotorch

  • Uniweld Products

  • Uvex Safety

  • Yellow Jacket Division, Ritchie Engineering

  • York-Refco Manufacturing

    Publication date: 07/31/2006