Seeing young electrical students compete in the Residential Wiring contest at the SkillsUSA Championships brought back memories for a retired electrician.

Ralph Matzdorvf, who has been a union member since 1954, used his decades of expertise to critique high school and postsecondary students' workmanship. After the more than 60 Residential Wiring contestants spent hours perfecting their installations, he and 30 other veteran electricians strolled around with their clipboards to judge the wiring competition June 27 at H. Roe Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Mo.

“The contest has been going for nine years in Kansas City and I've been doing it for seven,” he said.

Sixteen students competed in the Residential Wiring contest in 1970, three years after the first SkillsUSA Championships. Thirty-two years later, about 140 electrical contestants pursued gold medals and prizes in four wiring competitions including Residential Wiring, Industrial Motor Controls, TeamWorks and Telecommunications Cabling. The 2002 SkillsUSA Championships, which had more than 4,000 contestants in 73 trade, technical and leadership events, gave the best students from each industry the opportunity to show off their work and compete against the clock.

“They represent the best of our nation as far as people being trained,” said Rick Mead, the retired owner of Smiley Electric.

George Thess, president of the St. Louis IEC chapter and SkillsUSA judge, said the contestants had to win local and state competitions before going on to the national level. Flip the page to see descriptions of the contests and a list of the champions.


Here are some quick statistics on the SkillsUSA Championships. Visit or for more information. Next year's championships will be June 26, 2003, in Kansas City, Mo.

Contestants. 4,000.
Total contests. 73.
Skilled trade contests. 45.
Health contests. 7.
Occupationally-related contests. 5.
Leadership contests. 12.
Demonstration contests. 5.
Contest judges. 1,000-1,200.
Technical Committee members. About 650.
Area covered. 525,000 sq ft (equivalent to the area of more than nine football fields).
Awards presented. 1,370 medals, 24 trophies and 79 plaques.
Total contributions from industry and education (in donated time, equipment and material) topped $25 million.


A retired group of IBEW Local 124 electricians (above) spent the day downtown at Kansas City's convention center to critique the workmanship, safety and Code compliance of the students' installations. Below, a few of the IBEW and IEC judges speak out on SkillsUSA Championships.

Wayne Sword, (right) a retired journeyman electrician, said the Residential Wiring contestants had to hook up a three-way switch, bend conduit and put in a service.

“I think they are getting some good experience and will learn a lot. Their installations will be judged on the Code and how well they complete the job.”

Rick Mead of Smiley Electric judged the Industrial Motor Controls contest for the second year. He said the students had to wire a box that is similar to a motor control.

“We're looking at their mechanical skills, ability to put things together, perform work safely and do it in a timely manner.

IEC's George Thess drove four hours from St. Louis to Kansas City to judge the Industrial Motor Controls contest.

“The most fantastic thing is seeing the quality of their work. To get here, they are already winners.”

Electrical medalists at SkillsUSA


Contestants in Residential Wiring were tested on their ability to install wiring in a residence working from drawings and specifications sheets. Professional electricians judged the contestants on the basis of general workmanship, accuracy of layout and installation, adherence to National Electrical Code and safety. The test consisted of two parts — conduit bending and the simulated wiring of two or more rooms of a typical residence. The wiring was judged according to standard residential wiring practices and the National Electrical Code.


Gold. Zachary Unger, Lehigh Career and Technical Institute, Schnecksville, Pa.

Silver. Aaron Vaughan, Chesterfield Technical Center, Chesterfield, Va.

Bronze. Kevin Hall, Center of Applied Tech-South, Edgewater, Md.


Gold. Jay Poulos, Guilford Technical Community College, Jamestown, N.C.

Silver. Evan Nyhof, Mitchell Technical School, Mitchell, S.D.

Bronze. Jeremy Tingvold, St. Paul Tech, St. Paul, Minn.


The Industrial Motor Control contestants are required to install electrical wiring and other devices used in an industrial setting; design and troubleshoot electrical diagrams using the proper test instruments; and demonstrate the proper and safe use of hand tools. All of the work must conform to the specifications of the National Electrical Code.


Gold. Thomas McCarter, Center of Applied Tech-South, Edgewater, Md.

Silver. Nick Dascoulias, Dover High School and Regional Center, Dover, N.H.

Bronze. Chad Luptowski, St. Joseph County Independent School District, Centreville, Mich.


Gold. Curtis Steinert, North Central Kansas Technical College, Beloit, Kan.

Silver. Lucas Owen, Danville Community College, Danville, Va.

Bronze. Blaine Bechtel, Chattahoochee Technical Institute, Marietta, Ga.


This contest stresses documentation, design, and installation issues, on-the-job safety and teamwork. Students competed in this limited demonstration contest for the first time in 2002. If successful, it will return as a permanent part of the championships like TeamWorks.


Gold. Tyler Denney, Tulsa Tech-Riverside, Tulsa, Okla.

Silver. Cole Martin, Herndon Career Center, Raytown, Mo.

Bronze. Mark Morris, Cumberland County Technical, Bridgeton, N.J.


Gold. Kenneth Coffey, East Central Technical Institute, Fitzgerald, Ga.

Silver. Clifton Watson, Tulsa High School for Science and Technology, Tulsa, Okla.

Bronze. Brendan Schoen, Illinois Central College, East Peoria, Ill.


Students work in a team of four to build a joint project, demonstrating excellence and professionalism in the fields of residential carpentry, masonry, plumbing, electricity and teamwork skills.


Gold. Lorain County Joint Vocational School, Oberlin, Ohio

Silver. Sun Area Technical Center, New Berlin, Pa.

Bronze. Bay Path Regional Vocational Technical High School, Charlton, Mass.


Gold. Salt Lake Community College, Salt Lake City, Utah

Silver. North Central Kansas Technical College, Beloit, Kan.

Bronze. Yavapai College, Prescott, Ariz.