OTTUMWA — Students from OHS placed first in a statewide electrical competition held in Des Moines late last month.
“It was definitely a surprise to hear that we won,” said Alex Lingren, one of the competitors and a senior at OHS.
Associated Builders and Contractors of Iowa hosts an annual job fair alongside carpentry, electrical and welding competitions. While students from OHS attended the job fair in the past, this was the first year any participated in the competitions.
“Last year, we took a bus of kids up there because they had a career day,” said Brett Graham, an industrial technology teacher at OHS. “And we realized there are competitions the kids can enter, and we thought it would be a good thing for them to get into. So the opening came up this year, and we registered as many kids as we could.”
The OHS electrical team consisted of two seniors: Lingren and Tyler McCoy. Both are involved with the SparkTank manufacturing program, and both helped design an Ottumwa-themed display that can be seen at the entrance to Holiday Nights’N Lights.
When the students arrived, they were greeted with a wood panel designed to resemble the interior of a wall, a bag of electrical components and a blueprint. They were given four hours to install the outlets and switches, run wire and ensure everything was working.
“It was a very down-to-scale version of what you would do in your house,” Lingren said.
There were some initial nerves.
“We were kind of nervous and kind of rushing at the beginning, because we didn’t know how far ahead or behind we were with other people,” said McCoy. “But then we took our lunch break, and we were going back and looking where we were with everyone else, and we were more comfortable in the second half.”
The high school’s electrical program has been in flux for a number of years. Graham said there hasn’t been a full-time instructor for the class since 2007, and that different vocational teachers have led the class at different times, depending on their schedules.
“So it’s hard to build a good class with one period a day, one semester,” he said.
However, the lack of a dedicated teacher did little to dull Lingren and McCoy’s enthusiasm. Lingren and McCoy spent two weeks meeting with the district’s electrician for an hour every day at 6 a.m. to prepare for the competition. Their practice supplies were donated by Ottumwa 3E.
While Lingren said he’s more interested in auto body work and joked that he came into the competition as a “helper,” McCoy already has some professional electrical experience. He spent last summer working full time for the district as an electrical apprentice.
Ottumwa students also participated in two other competitions at the event: one team constructed a doghouse for a carpentry competition, and five other students competed individually in a welding contest. The carpentry students placed 16th out of 25 teams, and Graham said he’s still waiting to hear the results of the welding competition.