Northeast Tech Kansas student named SkillsUSA State Champion, advances to nationals

Northeast Tech Kansas student named SkillsUSA State Champion, advances to nationals
Posted on 05/02/2017
Kaylun Barnes (left) and Darrin Hays (right) smile from the winner’s podium at the SkillsUSA State Competition. Barnes placed second in Industrial Motor Control, and Hays is the 2017 SkillsUSA State Champion in that category. As the first place winner for Oklahoma, Hays advances to the SkillsUSA National Competition in June.

Thousands of CareerTech students from across Oklahoma converged in Tulsa last week for the SkillsUSA State Competition. At the end of the three-day event, one student from Northeast Tech’s Kansas Campus found himself on the winner’s podium as a State Champion.  

“It was like a dream because, though neither of us expected it, I couldn't help but fantasize about that sort of an ending,” said Darin Hays.

A native of Locust Grove, Hays competed in the Industrial Motor Control category. This is just one of many competition categories available to students participating in SkillsUSA – a national student organization that offers leadership and occupational training, career opportunities, scholarships and prizes through annual competitions. Depending on the program, students may compete at regional, state or national levels. By winning state, Hays advances to the national competition in June.

Neither Kaylun nor I expected to get on the podium. We had both been intimidated by the competition from day one and we had been hoping for third place, if nothing else,” Hays said. “In fact, when Kaylun heard third place called and it wasn't either of us, he turned to me and said, Well we didn't make it.’ I more than agreed with that conclusion so when I heard both our names called immediately after that, unbelief and joy flooded my emotions.”

The Industrial Motor Control competition has four parts. The first part took place a few weeks before the Tulsa evet, when competitors were tested over electrical code and common knowledge questions. The other three parts were pipe bending, ladder diagram logic-and the actual-wiring of the equipment. The students were allotted four and half hours to complete their tasks on the day of the event.  

“The hardest part of the competition, probably the ladder diagram logic because that involves thinking and a steady hand, both of which are limited when you are under that pressure,” said Hays.

Another Northeast Tech student, Kaylun Barnes, joined Hays on the winner’s podium placing second in the same category.

“My favorite part of the competition was being able to compete doing something that I like and am good at,” Barnes said.

When asked what advice he would give to Hays ahead of his national competition, Barnes said, “Darin, keep trying hard, pushing yourself, and practicing and I believe you can do great at nationals.”

Northeast Tech Electrical Instructor Wade Friesen stood just off stage during the awards ceremony, and as the medal was slipped over his head, Hays paused to point at Friesen.

I couldn't have done any of it without him. I began this school year with zero electrical knowledge and if you had asked me to do this competition then, I probably would've peed my pants,” Hays said. “He has taught me so much throughout this year, not only in electrical, but also in everyday character qualities.”

The SkillsUSA National Competition takes place June 19-23 in Louisville, Ky. The students and their instructors will travel to Louisville with all expenses paid, thanks to the support of the district’s Board of Education.

“Each year, the board takes action to provide funding for the students who place first at SkillsUSA State, earning the chance to represent the district and the state at the national competition,” said Northeast Tech Superintendent Fred Probis. “Our board realizes the importance of these competitions, not only for the skills and professional networking opportunities it brings to the students, but also because it expands their world a little bit.”

Regardless of how he places at SkillsUSA Nationals, Hays is thrilled with the opportunity to compete.

“I'm just thankful to God that I have made it this far and I just plan on enjoying every moment of it,” Hays said.  “I am going to give it my all and trust that God will give me the ending I need – whether that be winning or losing – because either way, l will have the honor and opportunity to learn and to grow.”

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