Romeo hosted the Regional SkillsUSA Competition on March 2 at the Romeo Engineering and Technical Center (RETC).
SkillsUSA is a national organization for those enrolled in technical, skilled, service and health occupations.
Four area schools competed in two areas: Culinary Arts and Precision Machining. Culinary Arts was broken down further into various categories. Romeo students competed in either the “Hot Side” or “Baking” categories.
All students in the “Hot Side” category prepared the same menu: rice pilaf, glazed carrots and bread pudding. Judges from area businesses, restaurant owners and those in the culinary arts industry volunteered their hours to help.
“Hot Side” judges looked for creativity, sanitation, knife skills, wastefulness, proper food temperature and completion of everything on the menu.
Competitors in “Baking” prepared cranberry-orange scones, puff pastry, rolls, chocolate-dipped macaroons and also decorated a cake. Time management, sanitation, and creativity were some factors the “Baking” judges considered.
The top three students in each category will go on to the SkillsUSA State Competition on April 19-21 in Grand Rapids.
Romeo winners of the “Baking” category and going to State Competition are Linzi Hobbs, 1st place, Jessica McTaggart, 2nd place and alternate Mary Mabbitt, 4th place. Winners of the “Hot Side” category are Colton O’Neill, 3rd place and alternate Kelsey Hobbs, 4th place.
O’Neill, RHS senior, may attend Grand Valley after graduation. “I’ll always cook, but I don’t know if I’ll major in it in college.” Encouraged by her win, L. Hobbs would like to open a bakery in the future.
Chef Colleen Spiers, CC, certified culinary instructor at RETC, explained how it’s difficult to be objective in judging; judges look for different things and have different tastes.
“It’s heartbreaking if the kids don’t do well, the kids work so hard,” said Spiers.
Down the hall eight students from Romeo competed in Precision Machining. Only the top scorer in each of four categories: Overall, Bench, Lathe and Mill will advance to the State Competition.
Each student rotated between different stations such as the mill, bench or lathe or took written tests checking general knowledge, shop math, blueprint reading and CNC (Computer Numerical Control) programming.
“Precision Machining is the longest category in the SkillsUSA competition. We’re the first to start and last to finish. It’s a long, grueling day,” said Guy Hart, Machine Trades & CNC instructor at RETC.
Machining students moving on to this year’s State Competition include senior John Reiter, who accumulated the most points and was awarded 1st place Overall; Kevin Jacobs, first place in Lathe; Devone Reese, first place in Bench and alternate Bruce Wright Jr., second place in Mill.
Fourteen judges from area machining-related businesses, industry and past competitors volunteered their time to help at this year’s competition.
Hart had high hopes for Romeo students to move on to the next level of competition. He explained since 2005 the state champion came out of this region and was pleased with his students’ results this day. “I am proud as always,” said Hart.