How do you top a silver medal? If you’re Ethan Blake you top it with a gold!
Ethan is a junior at Blackstone Valley Tech, a vocational high school in Upton, Massachusetts USA and a co-op in Tegra Medical’s Accupoint department where he uses a Computer Numeric Control (CNC) machine to grind intricate points on different types of medical needles. He earned his medals in a competition for high school students called SkillsUSA, which is a partnership of education and industry working together to ensure America has a skilled workforce.
SkillsUSA holds competitive events in which students participate, initially at a local level, then progressing to state and national events. Ethan participated in the CNC Milling Specialist category, which is part of the manufacturing sector. The other sectors encompass 102 diverse skills such as graphic design, carpentry, plumbing, welding, nursing, culinary arts, information technology, robotics, and firefighting. “SkillsUSA is an amazing program,” says Ken Giacomuzzi, Tegra Medical Tool Crib Coordinator and a volunteer with SkillsUSA. “It helps kids be job-ready immediately after they graduate.”
Much to his own surprise, Ethan aced a written test to win a silver medal in his local district’s competition in March – his first time competing. This qualified him for the Massachusetts state competition in April. He prepared by honing his programming skills, which until then had been largely self-taught. This effort paid off, as the competition included two hours of programming a part on a simulator, followed by 15 minutes of execution to see if it ran successfully.
“I was the last one to do the test,” noted Ethan. “We didn’t get any feedback until the award ceremony the next day. But I felt pretty confident. I really enjoy programming, and I had time to test my work before my two hours was up.” During the execution phase the program ran flawlessly, earning Ethan a perfect score, a gold medal and a ticket to the national competition in Kentucky June 25. To top it off, local college New England Tech grants scholarships to gold medal winners.
Ethan is excited about competing at the national level where he’ll be joined by his parents and brother, as well as his friend and classmate Jack Mandella, whose gold medal in welding also earned him a spot in the competition. “We are proud, excited and not surprised at his success,” says Ethan’s boss at Tegra Medical, Tom Rabe. “From day one he’s been a model employee who absorbed and picked up the job quicker than we ever imagined. He’s proven, especially with winning gold at SkillsUSA, that the sky is the limit for him.”