Two students at Carroll County’s Career and Technology Center found a way to win national awards despite an unusual school year.
Dylan Bussard, a senior at Westminster High School, won first place in the Secondary category for the 2020 I BUILT THIS contest out of 16 people, sponsored by the National Center for Construction Education and Research. His welding classmate, Dakota Van Cleve, a senior at Manchester Valley High School, won second place.
“Honestly, I was shocked,” Bussard said. “I had no clue. I was just happy to hear I won.”
The competition calls for contestants to not only build something, but to answer questions and explain it.
Michael Schweinsberg, the welding instructor, said his students have been competing in the contest since 2017 and produced winners every year. He was still surprised his students won this year because the limited time with hybrid learning allowing only two days for in-person instruction.
The Carroll County Board of Education recently voted to move to virtual learning for all the schools in the county but programs like the ones offered at the Tech Center were exempt and able to remain in hybrid mode.
After students built their projects for the competition, Schweinsberg said they had to complete a report, answer four questions and talk about the project on camera. Usually, the video production program at the tech center helps, but not this year due to health and safety practices. They had to record it themselves.
The contest opened the first week of October and ended at the end of the month, Schweinsberg said.
Bussard built an entryway bench and storage for the school resource officer at his school. He said the bench is so the officer can place it outside his office.
“He has a place to send somebody so they can sit down,” he said.
Bussard said his teacher, helped him with the idea. It was his first time in the competition.
It was challenging to find time to work on a project, keep up with welding practices and skills for class and keeping up with other schoolwork, he said. But it was all worth it in the end.
For a prize, Bussard and Van Cleve were given two gift cards, a GoPro, tools and money for the welding program.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It taught me a lot.”
Van Cleve said she decided to create a tailgate for a Historic Ford F350 Pick-Up Truck. She came up with the idea when she saw the original tailgate rusted off. The truck belonged to her dad but she’s fixing it up so she can have it.
She said she started the design plan a while ago but saw an opportunity with the contest.
“I thought it’d be an interesting way to try different types of welding,” the senior said.
She said participating in the competition, win or lose, was a benefit. If she lost, she said it means she has to work harder, and if she won, it meant she knows her work is appreciated and she can keep moving forward.
This isn’t her first competition. During the summer, she participated in the James F. Lincoln Arc Welding Foundation for the same project and won regional gold.
“Welding is what I want to do,” she said. “So anything I can do that helps me, that will benefit me in the future is fantastic.”
Van Cleve said she was surprised she placed second in the I BUILT THIS contest because she thought it was dependent on popular votes. She saw she was in the lead for votes for a while, but she started falling behind.
When Schweinsberg told her she placed second, he mentioned the judges also had a say in the matter.
“OK, so, somebody that didn’t know me, chose me for second,” she said she recalled thinking.
Both Bussard and Van Cleve want to pursue welding after high school. Bussard said he hopes find a welding job after school next semester and continue working in the field after he graduates. And Van Cleve, who was once told she couldn’t weld because she was a girl, wants to start her own business after receiving her business degree.