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From seared chicken to seared metal: Students show off talents (Video)

By KBell
Feb. 3, 2012 at 4:03 p.m.
Updated Feb. 3, 2012 at 8:04 p.m.

Corpus Christi Ray High School student Jonathan Sanchez, left, Corpus Christi Moody High School student Alex Solano, center, and Ray High School student Rene Alejandro work on welding the vertical 3G grooves they were given as their assignment for the welding category of the Skills USA District Competition on Friday at the Victoria Career and Technical Institute.

All was silent, save the overhead drum of oven fans swooping up savory scents.

As kids hustled around the kitchen and their peers peered at them through a window, the pressure could be cut with a knife. But they settled on cutting onions and celery, mushrooms and peppers instead.

This was the culinary competition, one of dozens of hands-on contests at the district Skills USA competition at Victoria school district's Career and Technology Institute on Friday.

The two-day competition attracted about 400 students, who came to prove their skills in everything from nail art, advertising design and collision repair to carpentry, crime scene investigations and job interviews.

Right down the hall from the culinary competition was a room just as hot with competition but with a quite more unpleasant smell: burnt metal.

"I just want to see where I'm at and show people what I can do," said Daniel Zubieta, a senior at East High School who competed in the welding contest.

While burners boiled water a few classrooms away, neon-blue flames fused together two pieces of metal in the welding room, which hosted eight high school welders at a time.

The students moved as quickly as their counterparts in the kitchen, striking a balance between speed and precision.

Daniel said he wasn't nervous for the competition. For him, the hard part was over.

In a week-and-a-half, he'd put together a barbecue pit, which was already being judged at Liberty Academy.

"This year, I really learned a lot doing the barbecue pit. I was by myself and learned a lot of techniques," he said.

Daniel said he picked up on building things from his father, but the last two years he's perfected his craft at CTI. He plans to go to Victoria College to pursue a welding career.

David Lynn, principal at CTI, said Skills USA offers the opportunity to display the full breadth of the talent kids have. And, for some, the competition pays off in more ways than one.

"This morning, I set up my barbecue pit and five people asked me, "How much?'" Daniel said.

The competition continues Saturday.



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