FHS team places 22nd in SkillsUSA national competition


Last updated 9/13/2019 at 9:33pm

A team of three Fallbrook High School industrial arts students placed 22nd in the national SkillsUSA competition.

The team of Lianna Arnold, Kyle Bequette and Nick Holemo represented California in the Engineering Technology and Design category during the competition, June 26-27, at the Kentucky Exposition Center in Louisville.

“It’s a really big deal,” Jacob Bagnell, the metal shop and wood shop instructor at Fallbrook High School, said.

The SkillsUSA vocational arts club had a Southern California regional competition Feb. 3, in Ontario, and 18 of the 32 Fallbrook High School students who participated qualified for the state competition.

“We did really well. It was highly successful,” Bagnell said.

The state’s Region 6 includes San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono counties. More than 15,000 students are in Region 6.

“It’s the largest student-led organization in the country as far as I’ve been told,” Bagnell said. “It’s a neat thing when you can win there, because it’s strong competition. When you do well in a competition like that it really means something.”

The Fallbrook engineering and design students scored 1,000 out of a possible 1,000 points at the regional competition.

“They didn’t make a single mistake,” Bagnell said.

The state competition took place April 25-28, in Ontario. The first-place student or team of students in each category advanced to the national level. That included the Fallbrook trio who qualified in the Engineering Technology and Design category.

“It’s pretty amazing. It’s the first time that our school has ever had students qualify for the national competition,” Bagnell said.

Bagnell said that California includes San Diego’s Golden Triangle and the Bay Area’s Silicon Valley, both of which are noted for technology companies and universities.

“For Fallbrook High School to represent the state of California is pretty amazing,” he said.

The criteria included the ability to design and develop an engineering product and to present that product design and development to the judges. The students designed a prosthetic hand which uses muscle sensors. Bagnell partners with Matthew Eaton to teach a robotics class which integrates Eaton's expertise including electrical and circuit design with Bagnell’s mechanical design skills.

“It’s a team effort, but the ideas and the main process were developed through Mr. Eaton’s biomedical engineering class,” Bagnell said.

The state winners from each category participated at the national event at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

“The actual competition’s insane,” Bagnell said. “There are so many different categories and they’re all under one roof.”

A trade show complemented the SkillsUSA competitions.

“It was mind-boggling how expansive it was,” Bagnell said.

The Fallbrook students presented before two teams of three judges each. The judges are all engineers, and the lead judge is an aerospace engineering for Boeing.

In addition to the presentation of the product the students had already designed, during the national competition the students were given a problem and materials and had to develop a solution to the problem.

“We didn’t know exactly what the rubric was,” Bagnell said. “We didn’t follow the rubric because we didn’t know exactly what to do.”

The scoring rubric did not provide points for creativity and innovation and emphasized the presentation.

“It was good for our first year,” Bagnell said of 22nd place. “Just making it to nationals is a big deal.”


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