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Engineering Technology Graduate Wins SkillsUSA State Competition, Enjoys Learning Experience in Virtual National Conference

PhotoBrandon Baker, a graduate of Ferris State University’s Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology program, was a top finisher in the 2021 SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, competing in Diesel Equipment Technology. He won a first-place medal in a state-level competition to reach the finals.

The tradition of College of Engineering Technology students succeeding in state-level SkillsUSA competition, then further representing Ferris State University in the national finals, continued in 2021. Thanks to a first-place medal from Michigan SkillsUSA, in Diesel Equipment Technology, Brandon Baker earned his place in that history.

Baker joined other higher education institution students at the state event in the Grand Rapids area in April, where he showcased his shop practices, measurements, electrical systems, engine fundamentals and general leadership abilities. Baker’s state victory was his ticket to the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference, a virtual offering in June, which included continuing competitions canceled in 2020 because of COVID-19.

“A written test was a major component of this year’s national competition, where I was one of 18 participants,” Baker said. “I was asked to identify components and demonstrate my knowledge in that examination, followed by an interactive Zoom session on diagnostics.”

Brandon said he was in an interactive exercise with a technician, who had a camera on their safety glasses. Baker’s verbal commands directed the response on a Cummins Diesel engine.

“The camera allowed me to see what we were working on, though I could only view portions of the engine at any one time,” Baker said. “It was unusual to speak out my intentions as I was supposed to verbally lead the on-site technician’s appropriate actions based on what was presented to me visually.”

Baker said he also had to direct a vehicle inspection on a semi-hauler, like those required for certification by a Department of Transportation at the state or federal level.

“It was unusual being virtual because I could only see what appeared on the screen before me, rather than gaining information through overall observation,” Baker said. “I was not able to earn a medal in the Nationals, but was proud to have finished fourth among all competitors in Diesel Equipment Technology.”

Baker graduated in May 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in Heavy Equipment Service Engineering Technology and has returned to the Newaygo area to work as a fleet manager in his family’s business, Jerry’s Towing and Recovery, Inc.

“I am glad I did this; I learned some very helpful techniques because of the competition, which also showed me some skills I may need to review to be the best I can as a professional,” Brandon said. “I understand I missed out on some of the camaraderie and networking that a typical National Leadership and Skills Conference could have offered me, but I was proud to represent Ferris and myself in SkillsUSA this year.”