Report from Teacher Ed Birkey on SkillsUSA

Hi, I’m Ed Birkey, a 23-year Technology Education teacher. For the past couple of years I’ve been working in the Fort Dodge (Iowa) Community School District. And now you’ll see me as a regular blog contributor here at I’m looking forward to sharing my activities and even more, learning from other teachers about they’ve been doing in the classroom!

Today I’d like to share some information about SkillsUSA. I’ve been a huge advocate of the value of SkillsUSA for years. Seven of my students competed in the national SkillsUSA contest in Kansas City in Late June.

One of the best ways to measure your program at both the state and national level is to get involved with a CTE organization like SkillsUSA.  This organization has a number of contests related to manufacturing that are developed by industry that allow your students to demonstrate their skills through hands on activities.  If a student places first in their state contest, they are able participate in the national SkillsUSA competition against students in 50 States and 4 territorial associations.

Contests that Fort Dodge represented from Iowa Included:

Technical Drafting-This contest evaluates contestant’s preparation for employment and recognizes outstanding students for excellence and professionalism in the field of technical drafting. The contest will focus on the solution of industry-developed problems by applying appropriate technical drafting skills and tools including computer-aided drafting (CAD). Our student places 20th in the nation at the 2013 event.  This is also the 5th year in a row that one of my students was at this national event.

Architectural Drafting-Contestants will use their drafting skills to solve an Architectural problem. The problem includes a written test, a hand sketch, and drawings EITHER computer-generated or board drafted. If board drafting, please bring all necessary equipment.  The contest tests the contestants’ problem solving abilities, not simply their CAD skills. Our Student placed 22nd in the nation this year. This is the 2nd year in a row that a Fort Dodge student represented our state.


Computer set-up day for the Architectural Drafting Contest

Welding Fabrication- A team competition that requires three students from each school to use their welding and fabrication skills to build a designed project from the given material. Each team is required to be skilled in the following welding and cutting processes: SMAW, GTAW, GMAW, FCAW and OFC. The students are also required to be proficient in using the common tools of a workshop. A theme-based project will be constructed by the students based on the prints drawn by each team. This is the first year that we had a team qualify in this even and they placed 26th in the nation.

Welding fabrication drawing

Welding fabrication drawing

Cabinetmaking-Requires the building of a small cabinet from materials and drawings supplied. Contestants are expected to read the drawings, lay out and cut the parts using a table saw, laminate trimmer, hand drill, hinge boring machine and various hand tools. The parts must be accurately assembled, sanded and adjusted to tolerances specified by the judges.  Our student placed 27th in this event.  This is the 10th year in a row that one of my students has represented Iowa in this event.

Cabinetmaking contest in action

Cabinetmaking contest in action

Computer Maintenance Technology-The CMT contest requires contestants to identify and repair computer hardware malfunctions, solve configuration problems, and install common components. In addition, the contestants take the A+ Certification exam. Their score on this exam is used as the basis for the written portion of the contest, and contestants who pass the exam receive their A+ Certification. Our student placed  28th in this event.  He also placed first in an earlier event that had the students take apart a Smart Phone identify all the parts needed and then put it back together for time.  He won a nice prize for this!

There is one other event that I am a big believer in and we took our first group from Fort Dodge to the state event where they placed 2nd this year.  It is called Automated Manufacturing which is a 3 person team contest that evaluates them for employment in integrated manufacturing technology fields of computer aided drafting/design (CAD), computer aided manufacturing (CAM), and computer numerical controlled machining (CNC). CAD operators construct the part geometry; the CAM operator generates the tool paths; and the CNC operator sets up and machines the part. Plotting is not a scored event; however the contestants must be able to generate a plot file that will be used to send their data to the plotter.  We used the ShopBot Desktop that our school won to compete at the event.  I have had three teams compete in the national contest before while at another school and my goal is to have that same success here at Fort Dodge…

These are many contest areas you could try! Or other organizations like the Technology Student Association or FirstRobotics.  If you are interested in Skillsusa their website is It may take you a while to get to the level of taking students to nationals consistently but when this happens it will be a great feeling of success as an educator.  I personally also get great satisfaction watching my past students succeed at the post-secondary or college level (college students are also part of the state and national SkillsUSA contests).  I have seen past students place including national champions in the same contests that they participated in high school.  My most recent student was a three time state champion that I had in Cabinetmaking that placed 10th in this year’s college level event.

Enjoy your summer. Until the next blog…

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.