SPRINGVILLE—The 2018 SkillsUSA New York Leadership Conference and Skills Competition pitted students from across the state against each other in competitions based on trades from carpentry to culinary arts, cosmetology and more. Two local students were able to show off their skills and place second in their fields.
David Gangler, of Springville-Griffith Institute, took second place in the welding sculpture competition and Edward Thiel, of West Valley Central School, placed second in precision heavy equipment operation category.
Gangler’s competition involved fabricating a sculpture made of metal welded together that had to meet certain weight, size, welding technique, material and creativity requirements. During his junior year, Gangler created a dragon made completely out of scrap metal and for his SkillsUSA entry, decided to improve on his dragon idea and make it out of fabricated pieces of metal.
“I was completely surprised and shocked,” he said. “Seeing the other contestants’ sculptures, I wasn’t sure whether or not I was going to place.”
Though he wasn’t too interested in SkillsUSA when it was first presented to him, people at S-GI saw his talents in welding and eventually convinced Gangler to try the welding sculpture competition and take on the other skilled welders from across New York.
“When I made the first dragon, everyone thought it was the coolest thing, but when this year came around and people were trying to find people take place in [SkillsUSA] competitions, everyone looked at me and said you need to take sculpture welding,” Gangler said. “They talked me into it.”
Once graduating, Gangler is planning to pursue a career in welding and focus on getting into the automotive side of the field.
“When you think of an old car, you can’t find parts and you can’t buy parts so if there is something that is rusted out, you have to make that,” Gangler said. “People who are skilled with their hands are the people that can do that, and it also involves a lot of creativity … you have to be able to understand how metal bends and things like that, and that is something not a lot of people have.”
During Thiel’s precision heavy equipment operation competition, he had to complete a number of tasks in a certain amount of time using equipment from excavators to skid-steers. The tasks included picking blocks up and stacking them, pick up metal rings and put them on a metal pipe, operate a skid-steer through an obstacle course and put a basketball through a hoop with a skid-steer. The competition also involved doing a pre-trip check on a dump truck and a written test.
“I was surprised that I actually placed,” Thiel said. “I thought I was toward the middle of the pack of the competition. I didn’t think I did as well as I had done, so I was more surprised when I heard my name called.”
During his junior year, Thiel was asked by advisors to run for president of the SkillsUSA chapter and after winning the seat, has had a big role in the SkillsUSA program for both himself and his fellow students.
“I have had a large involvement in SkillsUSA over the past two years, running the chapter for our class and everything that goes along with that … our fundraisers, our open houses we have a BOCES,” Thiel said.
Thiel will be attending the State University of New York College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill for agricultural engineering through the school’s John Deere technician program and has employment set up through and after college at Landpro Equipment in Springville.
Other students participating in the SkillsUSA competition included Julia Burgard, Jacob Bystryk, Emily Leverentz and Stephanie Young, all from S-GI and Cheyanne Folts in crime scene investigation, Brandon Blackmon in carpentry, Michael Boberg auditing the precision heavy equipment competition and Becca Smith in culinary arts, all from WVCS.