Humber students win gold in 2016 Skills Canada National Competition

Humber students win gold in 2016 Skills Canada National Competition

Avery Bird and Theo Willert have yet to decide just where they’re going to put their gold medal awards from the 2016 Skills Canada National Competition (SCNC) in Moncton, but one place where they will be prominently displayed – their resumes.


The SCNC is a national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices across the country. Every year, more than 500 young people come to SCNC to participate in over 40 skilled trade and technology competitions. The two 24-year-olds took home the hardware in mechatronics – that’s the synthesis of technologies that creates automated, industrial production machinery and equipment. It’s a category Humber has dominated since 2004, winning gold six times, silver three times, and bronze once.


Bird and Willert were tasked with building, programming, and troubleshooting miniature automated systems as accurately and quickly as possible over a two-day period. These systems are meant to replicate real world factory applications.


“None of the teams know what they will be asked to do,” explains Bird, who recently graduated from Humber’s Electromechanical Engineering Technology program. “Everything we build is based on documentation received at the beginning of the competition, and each team must rely on their skill sets and speed to best the other teams.”


The duo spent months training in preparation for the SCNC, much of which was embedded in their course work.


“While our courses gave us the knowledge and skills to compete, we spent lots of time as a team nailing down what we needed to win,” says Willert, who recently graduated from the same program. “We would practice all the time to improve our speed, accuracy, and programming skills to the point where we could be given something we’ve never seen before and be able to make it work within an afternoon.”


An applied research project last year with 416 Automation also boosted Willert’s confidence. The aim of this collaboration was to produce a robotic technology that could test any type of car seat function and integrate that technology so that it could be used in factories around the world. (416 Automation has since developed more advanced systems based on Humber’s work and is now selling this technology internationally.) “Working at 416 gave me a real understanding of what it meant to work in an industrial facility with high standards,” says Willert. “So whenever we compete in skills competitions I always try to make sure that the quality of the system we build is up to the standards at 416.”


Though Bird and Willert were well-trained and prepared, the event wasn’t without its share of stress. “This competition was a World Skills Qualifier and the last chance we would have to make it to that kind of stage, a real once in a lifetime opportunity,” says Willert. “We went in comfortable that we could come out on top, but we had a real challenge from the other teams.”


“Think of something you’re really good at,” says Bird. “Now do it as fast as you can against several other people with any little mistake possibly resulting in your loss. At the time it was super stressful but also very thrilling.”


“All of that time spent preparing and training was worth it,” says Willert. “To win a national level competition feels pretty wild…It’s a great feeling.”


Now the pair have a dual focus – getting ready for the World Skills competition in Abu Dhabi in October 2017 and starting their careers. “We’re currently discussing employment with a company that values what we’ve achieved so far and is willing to support us on our road to Worlds,” says Bird.


After the Worlds, the experience we will have gained in terms of training, certifications, and rubbing shoulders with companies and competitors worldwide will give us an upper hand in helping us with any career path we chose to take,” says Willert. Whatever path that is, both Bird and Willert are certain that Humber helped them succeed. “The Humber Electromechanical Engineering Technology program is incredible,” said Bird. “Employers keep coming back to Humber to hire graduates because the students come out of this program with the perfect set of skills to start working in the automated field.”