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Smith Vocational alum to participate in international plumbing competition

National Leadership and Skills Conference
Plumbing (Secondary)
Nicholas Michalenko
Smith Agricultural and Vocational School
Kansas City, Missouri USA
June 24, 2010
Photo by Ho Yin Au
Copyright © 2010 Ho Yin Au.  All Rights Reserved.

National Leadership and Skills Conference Plumbing (Secondary) Nicholas Michalenko Smith Agricultural and Vocational School Kansas City, Missouri USA June 24, 2010 Photo by Ho Yin Au Copyright © 2010 Ho Yin Au. All Rights Reserved.

Nicholas Michalenko of Savoy, a 2010 Smith Vocational and Agricultural High School graduate, will head to Leipzig, Germany, in July, when he will represent the United States in the international plumbing competition of the biennial WorldSkills Competition. He will compete as a member of the U.S. “WorldTeam.” The 42nd international event will be held July 2-7.

Michalenko was awarded the silver medal in plumbing and heating in November during the WorldSkills America’s competition in Brazil, where the United States competed against 23 other countries in preparation for the WorldSkills Competition.

During his junior year at Smith Voke, in 2010, Michalenko made it to the national SkillsUSA Championships competition in Kansas City where he placed sixth in the plumbing competition. During his senior year, he made it back to Kansas City, where he placed first in the contest.

Michalenko now works for Rida Plumbing in Worthington.

His former teacher, Scott Paterson, who heads Smith Voke’s plumbing department and serves as its SkillsUSA advisor, said that Michalenko’s success depends, in part, on a mind that thinks like an engineer’s.

“How things work just fascinates him,” said Paterson, talking Tuesday at the school. “He would be a wiz at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology). ... I always joke he should be working for NASA. He could be working on the Mars mission. He’s just wired that way.”

According to Michalenko, his initial decision to attend Smith Voke involved a big commitment, including taking two different busses, traveling a total of three hours a day to reach Smith Voke in Northampton and leaving all of his friends who attended the local high school in Savoy.

Michalenko wrote this about the upcoming competition on SkillsUSA’s web site, www.skillsusa.org: “My greatest challenge will be that I am only familiar with the way plumbing is done in the USA. Although the principal of plumbing is the same throughout the world, there are many variations. This will be challenging, but a challenge is why I’m here.”

The WorldSkills Plumbing and Heating contest involves meeting such requirements as processing commercial materials into a simple installation according to a drawing, building up part of a gas, water, heating and effluent pipe installation and maintenance of the systems, constructing a sub-assembly of an installation on a workstation, and complying with the standard dimensions given on the project. The competitor must demonstrate a range of skills including measuring, setting out and marking of materials and pipe-work, bending of pipes by machine and by hand, silver soldering, soft soldering and other processes.

In 2013, more than 1,000 competitors will test their skills in Leipzig.

Paterson said his advice for Michalenko is the same for all his students. “Hit the specs ... give the judges what they ask for.”

— PHOEBE MITCHELL

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