Ken Brown takes 3rd place in Western States Apprentice Contest

    Oregon winners:Aaron Matteson, Ken BrownOregon winners: (middle) Aaron Matteson, Local 280 takes first place and (right) Ken Brown Local 48 takes third place.



September 9, 2017 was a typical hot day in Fresno, California.  Twenty recent graduates of the electrical apprenticeship programs from Oregon, Washington, California, Utah, Hawaii, and Idaho nervously waited for the annual Western States Apprentice Contest to begin.  In 1964, the contest was started as the Oregon Apprenticeship Contest by Carl Sorenson, a former business representative from Local 280, and was intended to showcase the top graduate in each program.  The contest has since expanded to include programs in all of the 9th District.  This year was unique, as it was the first year that a contestant from Hawaii participated.  


Ken dialing in his 4-bend saddle.Ken dialing in his 4-bend saddle.



Every year, graduating apprentices vote on who their representative should be for the contest.  Ken Brown was selected by his peers and graciously accepted the challenge.  Ken is employed by Dynalectric as a service electrician. Due to the time demands of his work load, Ken had very little time to prepare and relied on the skills he learned in the field and school to get him through each event. His employer, Dyanlectric, was proud to have Ken participate in the contest and sent a representative from the company to Fresno to support him in his endeavor. 



The contest consisted of five events, designed to challenge each contestant both physically and mentally.  The first event was conduit bending, ½ and ¾ inch EMT.  Contestants were given a single stick of each size conduit and were tasked with making multiple bends within a time limit.  They were given written instructions with all required dimensions.  Part of the challenge was to take the written instruction and turn it into the desired 3-D object.  As you can see from the variety of results in the picture below, this was not an easy task.



There were a few different interpretations of the instructions.


Once conduit bending was completed, the participants moved onto the second event, motor controls.  The contestants were required to draw a ladder diagram of the scenario, then use it to wire their stations.


“My favorite event was the motor controls drawing and wiring. I have an interest in motor controls and am comfortable in my understanding of how they work. I also really liked how that event was open to interpretation, as everything we had to do was based on a narrative description,” Ken said.


All of the events were timed, with bonus points applied to the first ten finishers.  It was a balance of speed versus accuracy.  At the end of the event each project was energized and the contestants were graded on their performance. 



Ken checking continuity during the motor control event.Ken checking continuity during the motor control event.

The final event of the hands-on portion of the contest was residential wiring.  It included several circuits, lighting, switches, receptacles, and GFCI’s. Many of the contestants find this portion of the event to be the most challenging and not all will finish.


“I would have to say the hardest event for me personally, was probably the residential wiring event. I was comfortable with the circuitry of what they wanted me to wire but there was really not much room for error, I was only given the exact amount of material needed and just enough time to complete it, if I worked efficiently,” Ken said.



The final two events of day were material identification followed by a code and theory test.



Individual $100 awards were given to the first place finishers of conduit bending, motor controls, and residential wiring.  Overall awards were given to the top three performers, $600, $400, and $200 respectively.  Platt Electric donated the awards and gave every contestant a cordless Milwaukie Drill and a toolbox with multiple tools as a thank you for participating. 



I fully expect this contest will continue to grow and someday we will be able to compete nationwide.  For now, I’m very proud to say that Oregon rules the west.