Three Nanaimo students tops in Canadian skills competition

Three Nanaimo students are best in Canada for their computer animation and carpentry skills.

Three Nanaimo students are best in Canada for their computer animation and carpentry skills.

The students won gold medals at the national Skills Canada competition held in Edmonton last week.

Jamie Ruddick and Josiah Stefani, Grade 12 students at Dover Bay Secondary School, were tops in the secondary 3D computer animation category – for the second year in a row. Morgan Brown, a Vancouver Island University student, proved he had the best carpentry skills in the country amongst his post-secondary peers.

“The competition was really stressful – so many people watching and I was up against the best guys from each province,” said Brown, 21. “There’s just so much pressure and you’re looking around at what the other guys are doing. I used every second, right up until the end. I’m just really proud of myself.”

While he thought his gold medal secured him a place on Team Canada 2013 in the world competition, Brown found out he is too old to participate – he’ll be 23 in October 2013 and to qualify, participants must be 22 and under that year.

Brown’s passion for woodworking started as a senior secondary school student in Port McNeill. After graduating, he moved to Nanaimo to begin the carpentry program at VIU. He hopes to achieve his red seal certification at the end of the summer.

“I just like to build stuff,” he said. “You get to see the final product. It’s something tangible, something you can look at afterwards.”

Jessie Magee-Chalmers, chairman of the carpentry department at VIU, called Brown a “natural carpenter”.

“He’s just a very bright kid,” he said. “He was always able to visualize everything we were teaching him.”

Ruddick was confident on Tuesday the short animation clip he created with partner Stefani had won the gold, but the confirmation on Wednesday during the awards ceremony came with a second, unexpected award – the pair were recognized for achieving the highest score among the more than 30 B.C. competitors.

“Winning two years in a row … employers are going to think, ‘Wow, these kids are really serious,'” said Ruddick, who wants to work on animated films as a career. “We’ve gotten so much faster and better.”

Stefani felt the pair’s former experience at nationals gave them a bit of an edge over the other students, because they went in a lot calmer and knowing what to expect.

He heads to the University of Victoria next fall to study engineering, but thinks he’ll still use his animation skills.

“I’m not sure how many movies I’ll make, but it’s definitely useful for visualizing things in 3D,” said Stefani.

Bruce Currell, the information technology teacher at Dover, said a win two years in a row at the regional, provincial and national levels shows that it is not just luck for the two students.

“They work very well together and they know the issues of time constraint,” he said. “You have to be fast at what you do and perfect. I’m quite proud of these kids.”

Trent Arnott, also a Grade 12 student at Dover, competed in the cabinetmaking category.

He said once there, he realized he was unprepared compared to some of the other students because he didn’t have time to practice much in advance.

“I might not have placed in the top three, but it was definitely fun and I felt like I fit in with the other kids,” said Arnott.

The competitions are held to encourage young people to look at careers in skilled trades and technology fields.

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