PHOTO CAPTIONS: Ferris State University graduate Ryan Meppelink, shown here and below, returned to campus with hardware from WorldSkills 2019 Kazan, as the bronze medalist in the Heavy Vehicle Technology program, and the Best of Nation award as the 20-member U.S. team’s only competition medalist. (Photos courtesy of WorldSkills USA)
A senior preparing to graduate from Ferris State University’s College of Engineering Technology addressed his first assignments of the Fall 2019 semester from southwestern Russia. He was competing in a global skills competition for students of skilled professions.
Ryan Meppelink, of Zeeland, returned to campus with hardware from WorldSkills 2019 Kazan, as the bronze medalist in the Heavy Vehicle Technology program, and the Best of Nation award as the 20-member U.S. team’s only competition medalist.
Meppelink, who is completing his Bachelor of Science degree in Heavy Equipment Maintenance, said that his 2016 SkillsUSA competition performance, as a high school student, set the stage for his selection to represent the U.S. in this event.
“I finished second in a regional event, in Jackson, won the state title that year and finished third in the 2016 SkillsUSA Nationals, in Louisville, Kentucky,” Meppelink said. “I was nominated to compete for this chance and have trained for more than a year with my expert, Tom Wozniak of Madison (Wisconsin) Area Technical College.”
Meppelink said he joined Wozniak for training in Russia before the competition, which began Friday, Aug. 23.
“We knew that I would have six stations, with various machines and assignments, with up to three hours to complete each one,” Meppelink said. “The competition continued through Monday, Aug. 26, and we had a general idea about the areas I would be asked to respond to.”
One of Meppelink’s best results came from a station where he performed a pre-delivery inspection checklist on a Volvo L20H compact wheel loader, which is a piece of construction equipment.
“I was temporarily thrown for a loop, because of the number of faults I was asked to resolve in that station,” Meppelink said. “I had to quickly prioritize where I would retain the most points by accomplishing certain tasks. I scored 16 out of 17 points by completing all of the tasks with the best possible response in the time allotted.”
Meppelink said that his efforts in WorldSkills called for working quickly while making accurate diagnoses at the stations that came up, with emphasis on observing strict safety standards. He said that keeping all those considerations in mind made for a grueling competition.
“As the process moved along, I was left a little less than confident about my results,” Meppelink said. “I recall one station that had me nervous, to the point of feeling nauseous, and the following day, I cut myself while working to complete the assignment. I did everything I could to minimize the impact of that injury on my result.”
Wozniak, said he was also participating in his first WorldSkills competition and described Meppelink as “a blessing to work with” and a fantastic individual.
“I pushed Ryan during the training meetings we had, prior to the competition in Russia,” Wozniak said. “I know I made him mad more than once during his visits to Madison. To his credit, Ryan stayed focused on his goals. He may have been disappointed in some of his results, but those stations proved to be difficult for most, if not all of the HVT competitors.”
Wozniak said Meppelink was prepared to respond well in this global competition.
“We had 15-minute opportunities to prepare for each day of competition, and though Ryan did not come from an athletic background, he did buy into my analogy that he needed to ‘swing for the fences’ in his approach toward each station,” Wozniak said. “Since he was the first medalist among all WorldSkills USA competitors in this event, and the only medalist on this year’s team, I would say he accomplished the goal very nicely.”
Meppelink said that turning to the first assignments of his final semester as a Ferris student on Tuesday, Aug. 27 helped him to relax before heading to Kazan Arena for the WorldSkills closing ceremonies that evening.
“Tom and I had no idea that we had finished third,” Meppelink said. “There was an announcement that they wanted HVT participants from Brazil, Canada and the USA to come forward. We learned that I was the bronze medalist when my name was called.”
Paulo Fratta, of Brazil, was the gold medalist with 745 points; Jack Dupuis, of Canada, took silver with 736; and Meppelink earned his bronze with 728 points, six better than Christof Rollin, of Switzerland. The nine competitors who scored at least 700 points in the Heavy Vehicle Technology competition received medals symbolic of their excellence. Meppelink said that a whirlwind of activity followed the announcement, which has made him grateful to return to the Ferris campus and his general routine.
“I have received job offers, requests for interviews and my picture was showing on all kinds of social media platforms,” Meppelink said. “It was quite an experience, and I feel that the time and effort that I invested in WorldSkills has paid off very well.”
Others from Ferris who took part in WorldSkills 2019 in Kazan included CAD Drafting and Tool Design Professor Dan Wanink. He was the expert supporting Nampa, Idaho native Benjamin Campbell, in the Mechanical Engineering (CAD) competition. Graphic Media Management Professor Patrick Klarecki served as chief technical expert for Print Media Technology and was the competition manager in Russia.