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Central Kitsap students head for national SkillUSA competition in June

Room 312 in Central Kitsap High School is technology teacher Jim Adamson’s wonderland.

"This is our piece of paradise," he said, and gestured to the room lined with PC towers and more than 40 computer monitors. The entire room runs on servers installed and connected by students. In the corner, a tall, black device resembling a giant microwave is actually the three-dimensional printer.

Adamson's students create designs, program the machine and wait overnight for it to pop out plastic objects ranging from airplane models to fossil replicas.

Adamson, a certified computer drafter who started teaching "to collect one paycheck and walk away" 18 years ago, uses thrifty ways like refurbishing old computers and asking companies for donations to equip his classroom better than many corporations and colleges. The University of Washington's 3-D printer is his hand-me-down.

"The first one printed in plaster or cornstarch, so we see some of our old models starting to degrade," Adamson said.

On a table across the room, a 3-D Alioscopy computer monitor, no glasses required, played an animated superhero movie.

Some of the classroom's gadgets, like the 3-D monitor, are prizes won by Adamson's SkillsUSA team, which is heading to nationals at the end of June in Kansas City, Mo., after winning gold at the state competition. They'll take on categories including broadcast news production, computer programming and engineering design.

SkillsUSA is a national organization which encourages young people to learn workplace skills.

Adamson said this is an "extra special" year because the twelve students will compete in every category he teaches.

The team is excited to see what they'll bring back from Kansas City in June. It's senior Charles Wallace's third year competing in 3-D animation.

"SkillsUSA shaped me," he said. "It showed me responsibility, hard work and where it can get you."

Wallace plans to study animation after high school, and his dream job is working for Pixar or creating video games.

Juniors Kaitlyn Duarte and Krista Holden are teammates in engineering. They'll be bringing their invention, a fertilizer attachment for a lawnmower.Duarte said not many girls compete in SkillsUSA, especially in engineering. "I think it gives us an advantage," Duarte said.

SkillsUSA club president Nick Birkenfeld, a sophomore, won gold at state his first year of competition in 2011 and finished 19th at nationals. He won gold at state again this year and hopes to medal at Kansas City.

Birkenfeld specializes in "internetworking," setting up computer networks.

"It's really cool at the national levels...you're working with half a million dollars of equipment," Birkenfeld said.

Central Kitsap's other SkillsUSA coach, Paul Stenson, teaches broadcast news production classes.

Some of his former students are currently in the broadcast news program at Washington State University, or reporting for KOMO-TV and Fox news networks.

Fundraising is the tough part, Stenson said.

Stenson said this year, each student is responsible for about $650 to cover airfare and hotel for the trip.

The state competition was in April, which gives students who win less than three months to raise the money.

Stenson said schools frown on bake sales, so these days students raise money by asking local businesses for donations and charging other students to come in and play computer games.

Stenson said the SkillsUSA competition is an "amazing eye opener" for many young people.

"Jim and I have programs where students can get hands-on experience and decide what to pursue," Stenson said.

SkillsUSA categories range from diesel mechanics to manicuring.

"When you look at all these kids, these are the people you're going to call when your plumbing breaks," Stenson said.

 

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