Tri-Tech students heading to national competitions after graduation

By Ty Beaver, Tri-City HeraldMay 16, 2014 

Three Tri-Tech students will be packing their bags after graduation to head to national skills competitions having already won tens of thousands of dollars in scholarships.

Kennewick High School senior Todd Pink will head to Kansas City, Mo., in late June after taking first place in diesel equipment at the recent Skills USA Washington State competition, winning $18,500 in scholarships.

Seniors Tucker Cannon of Kiona-Benton City High School and Roman Zolotnyuk of Richland High School will go to Dearborn, Mich., to represent the state in the national Ford/AAA Student Auto Skills Test. They each earned $40,000 in scholarships.

Instructors said the students' victories demonstrate their ability and add to a long winning legacy for the regional technical program.

"It was amazing at the contest to watch them," said instructor Larry Brookes of Tucker's and Roman's state-level wins.

SkillsUSA is a national organization that promotes technical, field and leadership training and education and holds contests across the country annually. The Ford/AAA competition also holds events every year where students diagnose and fix "bugs" installed into vehicles.

Todd worked through eight testing stations covering tools, electronics, measurements and diagnostics, as well as a written test and mock job interview to win at the state-level SkillsUSA event.

Though in his second year at Tri-Tech, instructor Lin Grant said it was Todd's first trip to state competition. Todd is the latest of Grant's students to take the top award at the state competition and many more have finished in the top three.

"I have a passion for things being loud and fast," Todd said of his interest in diesel technology.

Tucker and Cannon had their car running at the Ford/AAA competition within 15 minutes, faster than any other group in their garage bay, Brookes said. In the end, the pair only failed to fix one bug in their vehicle, the power source for the cigarette lighter. A few other teams never got their vehicles out for a test run.

Roman is in his second year at Tri-Tech, though he didn't gain an interest in automotive technology until he was a sophomore and his father bought him a used Audi that he later learned had a bad transmission.

"My dad told me I picked the car so I had to fix it," Roman said.

Tucker is only in his first year at the technical program but he's long had an interest in automotive technology and mechanics. His time at Tri-Tech has only honed his skills, he said.

"I've gotten better at electrical, much better," Tucker said.

All three students said they were excited to win at state and head to nationals, but none of them will use the scholarship money they've already been awarded as the money can only be used at specific vocational or technical programs.

Tucker said he'll attend Brigham Young University Idaho, where a scholarship will cover half his tuition as he studies automotive engineering. Roman said he'll earn his associate degree at Columbia Basin College while pursuing an automotive program.

And Todd will be at Washington State University Tri-Cities this fall, pursuing his goal of becoming a mechanical engineer.

"I took this class to have an understanding of how things work instead of being the guy behind a desk who designs things that gives people problems," Todd said.

-- Ty Beaver: 509-582-1402; tbeaver@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @_tybeaver; Google+: +TyBeaverTCHerald

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