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They’ve got skills

Team SAIT hard at work preparing for 2018 provincial skills competition

Team SAIT hard at work preparing for 2018 provincial skills competition

While it may seem quieter on campus, classrooms are still buzzing with activity as more than 60 SAIT students and apprentices prepare for this year's Provincial Skills Canada Competition.

Four of these students — Laine Van Hardeveld, Alexander Wilkinson, Keith Shawara and Jamie Fryklund — make up SAIT's two Mechatronics teams. The field of Mechatronics focuses on automated machinery and production systems. Each team is a duo comprised of a programmer and an assembler.

On top of their studies, the four Mechanical Engineering Technology students have been training for the competition for approximately eight months — led by Daniel Barrett, Instructor, School of Manufacturing & Automation.

"This year, we started training in September — working every Thursday night for four to six hours after class," he says. "We would usually be training until 10 or 11 pm."

During the competition, each team will have an automated machine that is designed to carry out a specific task such as transporting a payload from one location to another. The duos are tasked with disassembling the machine, laying out the components and reassembling the machine in a new configuration — all while ensuring that the code and programming works perfectly.

It is a simulation mimicking the process of reconfiguring a machine to a customer's new specifications at a new location.

With their classes done, the teams are entering the home stretch and ramping up their training. Every weekday until Wednesday, May 30, the two duos will drill through mock tasks and simulated scenarios to prepare for the provincial competition.

A legacy of success

This year's Mechatronics teams are looking to build on last year's accomplishments — Wilkinson captured gold and Shawara took home silver. Wilkinson was also a member of SAIT's gold medal duo at the 2017 National Skills Competition.

"We took gold and silver at provincials and captured gold at the national skills competition," says Barrett, who has trained SAIT Skills competitors for the past four years. "It was the first time in 25 years that a team from Alberta won gold in Mechatronics at the national competition."

"It's always great to see the hard work of our students pay off."

The two returning competitors will look to leverage their past success for another podium finish.

"Our experience helps us guide our partners, telling them where to put the sensors and what the most ideal set up is going to be for the components," says Wilkinson.
While gold is the goal, the experience of a hands-on competition — while further exploring a passion — is a motivating factor.

"I love tearing things apart and putting them back together," says Van Hardeveld. "Being able to mix that with something connected to what we want to do as a career gives us insight into being a well-rounded employee in the future."

The Olympics of trades and technology

This year's Provincial Skills Canada Competition takes place in Edmonton from May 31 to June 1. The students and apprentices, all under the age of 21, will compete in one of 33 post-secondary categories from Autobody Repair to Welding.

Nino Belvedere, SAIT Apprenticeship and Skills Coordinator, says the event encourages participants to reach a new level of personal excellence in their craft.

"For over 25 years, SAIT skills competitors have been proving time and time again they have what it takes to compete on the provincial, national and international stage," says Belvedere. "I'm confident many of the students and apprentices will be heading to the national competition in June."

Approximately 700 high school and post-secondary students and apprentices from 70 Alberta communities will participate in the two-day competition, which includes 45 trades and technology events — making it the biggest skills competition in the province.

Following the provincial competition, the National Skills Canada Competition takes place in the same location from June 4 to 6. This year's national competition is significant — winners will qualify for a spot at the WorldSkills Competition taking place in Kazan, Russia in August 2019.

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