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Saturday, June 7, 2014

Alvirne students take top three places, $17,000 in scholarships in SkillsUSA competition

HUDSON – Alvirne High school junior Derek Griffith knows more than most about diesel engines.

Heavy-duty hydraulics are a piece of cake. He takes to welding like a duck to water. ...

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HUDSON – Alvirne High school junior Derek Griffith knows more than most about diesel engines.

Heavy-duty hydraulics are a piece of cake. He takes to welding like a duck to water.

Griffith has gotten a lot out of his heavy-duty mechanics class at Alvirne – including a $10,000 scholarship.

“It makes me excited to go to school in the morning,” he said.

But he isn’t alone.

Alvirne students took gold, silver and bronze in a recent
SkillsUSA diesel equipment technology competition. All three study under welding and diesel teacher Adam Vignault. They collected a total of $17,000 in scholarships from the Universal Technical Institute.

Seniors Kris Wojtkun and Casey Silva placed second and third respectively, earning $5,000 and $2,000 scholarships.

Griffith, who placed first, is preparing to represent New Hampshire at the national
SkillsUSA Championships in Kansas City, Mo., on June 25, when he’ll have a chance at additional scholarships and prizes.

“Just study, study, study, that’s the only thing you can do,” Griffith said.

The course isn’t all grease and bolts. The class has moved into electrical work.

“A lot of stuff nowadays is electrical, of course, because it’s advancing,” Griffith said.

He used a Caterpillar diesel engine on a stand as an example.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on with these things, and you have to find out what’s wrong with it,” said Griffith, who practices electronics work, diagnostics and troubleshooting on machines in class.

Alvirne technology education director Karen Worthen said the programs evolve with technology, as well as demands from the job market.

“We’re in the process of a rebuilding year,” she said. “It takes three years to rebuild a program.”

For example, the heavy-duty mechanics course used to be agricultural mechanics.

Vignault began teaching two years ago and has worked to move the course into the future, focusing on other diesel machines beyond farm equipment.

Worthen said the school’s health science and technology, along with veterinary science, programs are among the most popular courses, but Vignault’s course is booked for the fall.

“There’s been a lot of interest in this program,” Worthen said.

Vignault had students land gold and silver at the state SkillsUSA competition last year, as well.

The SkillsUSA competition involves students, teachers and industry representatives who focus on a range of technical skills from advertising design to welding.

The daylong diesel equipment competition involved hands-on work and a written test.

“The students cycle through 14 stations to test and troubleshoot engines, electrical and electronics systems, and power train systems, including chassis, transmissions and carriers,” said Joan DeCoste, a spokeswoman for UTI and SkillsUSA. “Students also demonstrate skills in hydraulic systems, vehicle inspections, fundamental failure analysis, brake systems, air-conditioning systems and general shop skills.”

Griffith said the state competition was similar to his classroom experience at Alvirne.

“A lot of what we learn about every day was up there, a lot of the stuff Mr. V shows us in class,” he said. “It was cool to go up there and know what I was doing.”