WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Last month, thousands of students from all over the state put their technical knowledge to the test at the SkillsUSA Arizona Championships. Williams High School juniors James Walker and Tim Hockensmith finished in first place in the construction technology competition and senior Cody Watson finished in third place in the single man carpentry category.
The competition took place in Phoenix on April 15 and 16 and included about 50 categories from construction to culinary arts to media. According to the organization's website, "SkillsUSA is a national nonprofit organization serving teachers and high school and college students who are preparing for careers in trade, technical and skilled service occupations, including health occupations."
About 10 Williams High School students participated in the state championships.
The students prepared for the competition through their construction classes at the high school, which have included training in masonry, carpentry, electrical work and plumbing.
For the construction technology competition, Walker and Hockensmith had about six hours to build two lawn chairs.
"They give you the blueprints on it and they grade it on how precise it was," Walker said.
The students said they were able to finish the chairs fairly quickly and were surprised when they found out they placed first.
"I was amazed. I didn't think it was going to happen," Walker said. "It feels nice getting an award."
This year was Walker's second year competing in the state championships and Hockensmith's first year. They both plan to compete again next year and build on what they learned through their experience this year.
"I kind of learned how to work better with a partner," Walker said. "Me and Tim did pretty good with each other."
For the single man carpentry competition, Watson had about eight hours to work on his project.
"We had to build a doghouse this year, which you wouldn't think would be that hard, but nobody finished, not a single person in our competition," he said.
Watson said one of the main challenges in his category was completing the amount of work within the allowed timeframe.
"That and materials," he said. "They barely gave us enough materials, so some of us couldn't work with it."
This was Watson's third year competing in the state championships, and he said he took away a new lesson this year.
"I learned how to work more efficiently," Watson said.
The Williams students said the SkillsUSA program teaches valuable work skills.
"A lot of times they have actual companies down there that will hire based off of how well you do down there and your work ethic," Watson said.
However, for the Williams students, the competition is just for fun.
"Some people take it way too serious, but we go to have fun," Watson said. "It's just an extra skill to learn in life."