MANCHESTER -- Turning an image sketched on paper into a three-dimensional object takes teamwork.
"It was a struggle at first, but we understood what we were doing and what we had to do," said Spaulding High School senior Jacob Paradis, who along with teammates Alec Lemelin and Andrew Clark learned Sunday the team had clinched the competition and won a berth in the SkillsUSA national competition this summer.
New Hampshire-based Intelitek is a longtime partner with SkillsUSA, a national nonprofit organization involving students, teachers and industry. The cooperative's motto is "preparing for leadership in the world of work." Formerly known as VICA — Vocational Industrial Clubs of America — SkillsUSA promotes teamwork, character development and learning skills through experience.
SkillsUSA has grown to include 99 trade, technical and leadership fields ranging from culinary arts to traditional trades such as masonry.
Intelitek hosted the two New Hampshire teams vying for a spot in the field of Automated Manufacturing Technology. Both were from Spaulding, a Rochester high school that is home to the Richard W. Creteau Regional Technology Center.
Lemelin, Paradis and Clark were working with a bit of a head start as second-year students in a course of architecture and engineering technology. They also took part in last year's state competition, won by a team of Spaulding girls who went on to take the national title.
Jeff Stone, technical services manager for Intelitek, set the teams to work Friday with a rough sketch. Intelitek provided the machinery and materials.
"That's one of the great things about this competition. It challenges them to do the math and collaborate as a team," Stone said.
The only physical labor involved appeared to be changing the bits and tools in the machines and setting the vise to hold the block in place. The rest of the work involved coming up with the coding so the machinery could cut, drill and grind away excess material to create a physical object.
Lemelin said the team had to start the machining process over at least once.
"We had a pretty good amount of setbacks," said Lemelin, a senior.
And once the odd-looking beige item met the specifications, the work was far from done. Students had to document each step, from their very first revision of the sketch to their choice of bits and tools. They were required to submit the step-by-step log along with a blueprint detailing the part viewed from different angles and listing the measurements.
The students handed over the product and corresponding paperwork to Stone, who responded with an order for a second part in a completely different shape and pattern.
The team had learned from earlier mistakes and completed the second order in about an hour.
"Once they get their feet wet, they build up a little confidence," Stone said.
"The most important aspect of this is not the technology, it's the teamwork," said David Foote, adviser to the Spaulding teams.