After six hours of carefully observing complex schematics, constructing a myriad of pieces and measuring dimensions, recent Tantasqua Regional High School graduate Conor Krochmalnyckyj put the finishing touches on his picnic table.
With an hour left in the competition and excess building materials left over, Krochmalnyckyj wasn’t sure where he’d place. He ended up taking home the gold medal.
SkillsUSA’s 2021 “National Leadership and Skills conference” was vastly different from the years prior. Instead of inviting thousands of students interested in technical and trade careers to compete in 100 unique competitions in a ginormous auditorium, this year’s weeklong conference was entirely virtual.
Students wired electrical outlets, 3D printed objects, built cabinets, showcased cybersecurity skills and cut hair in front of a webcam, live-streamed to a selection of moderators and judges from the comfort of their classroom or workspace.
“Everybody had a camera or an iPad or something in their shop, filming them the whole time. We had to be on the camera at all times,” said Krochmalnyckyj.
Krochmalnyckyj placed first in the SkillUSA’s state carpentry competition earlier this year, Tantasqua Regional High School Carpentry teacher Tim Seguin, said SkillUSA’s state competition appeared to be more technical and detail-oriented than the national level.
“They had to build a small structure with steel studs and a set of stairs in it,” said Seguin.
The 18-year-old Sturbdige teen defeated his Massachusetts high school contemporaries in the state competition, qualifying him to compete with other state champions in the June, 16, national bout.
At first glance, the national competition appeared to be a cakewalk, “Build a picnic table with two conjoining sawhorses. “
“If you look at the prints,” Seguin showed deeply layered schematics with an assortment of measurements and instructions, “you can see the detail [the judges] are looking for.”
Each contestant was tasked with building the picnic table from 37 materials and 11 pounds of assorted screws.
SkillsUSA added extra building pieces to the material list as insurance, in case any contestant made a mistake.
“Conor didn’t make mistakes,” said Seguin.
If a piece didn’t come out in the right size or shape to Krochmalnyckyj’s liking, he resourcefully reincorporated that building plank to another portion of the table.
Krochmalnyckyj’s picnic table and an 80 question carpentry questionnaire, which he took days prior to the building contest, won him the first place gold medal.
“We’ve never had a state champion before, and definitely never had a national champion,” said Seguin, “it was really rewarding seeing Conor put in that effort and achieve that goal.”
Krochmalnyckyj’s been sculpting his woodworking skills from an early age.
At age 13 he wanted “a new bass boat and something nicer to go fishing and have friends fish on, but I didn’t really have the money for a new bass boat,” said Krochmalnyckyj.
So he decided to build one himself.
Krochmanlycyj installed decks, cabinets, a small horsepower electric motor and even “hatches and carpet,” to his self-made bass boat.
His boat even caught the eye of his then Baseball Coach and local Construction Superintendent Chris Rizy, who tutored and brought the young craftsman along to work with him.
Krochmanlycyj would go on to refine his skills, working on home improvement projects such as kitchen cabinets and floor tiles for his mother.
Seguin said it’s critical for an inspiring tradesperson “to start young,” so when they finally get into a trades school “they already know what some of the tools are.”
“I aspire to be as good as my teachers one day,” said Krochmanlycyj, ”and just learn all the crazy things they’re able to do.”
Seguin takes his senior carpentry class out to build homes for members of the community, he said Krochmanlycyj’s contributions to the house projects were equal to that of “six people collectively.”
Straight out of high school Krochmanlycyj has already found a job building custom homes for a Fiskdale area carpentry company.
“It’s very advanced work, which is kind of tricky,” he said that he looks forward to learning and working for the company for a long time.
Krochmanlycyj hopes his work will one day catch the eye of “Dirty Jobs” TV host Mike Rowe, as well as, have the opportunity to showcase his carpentry skills worldwide in the WorldSkills competition.
Krochmanlycyj advises younger people to “Just look for what you want and go get it. It’s never too early to start.”