A West Orange – Stark High School Career Center student will represent the state of Texas at the National Leadership and Skills Conference in the SkillsUSA precision machining competition scheduled for June 23 – 27 in Kansas City, Missouri.

Blake Thibodeaux, a Bridge City High School junior who attends the WO-S Career Center, will compete for the national title against other state champions from across the nation.
“He has a lot of good mechanical ability for a first year student. He’s the kind of kid that anything he does, he does well. He’s got that gift. He stays busy. He doesn’t let a minute of class time go by without helping someone or learning something,” WO-S precision machining instructor Carlo Paulino said.
Thibodeaux is the “total package,” according to his teacher, possessing a positive attitude, a great work ethic and a natural mechanical ability.
Thibodeaux said he has always wanted to learn how to do precision machining work.
“I’ve always worked with cars and machinery. I like that.
“As soon as I got in here, I could do just about anything Mr. Paulino gave me – and once I started practicing I got better,” Thibodeaux said.
As a first year student, he was able to place first in the District SkillsUSA contest at Lamar Institute of Technology held earlier this year; and also earn State honors at the State SkillsUSA competition held in Corpus Christi in April.
At both events, Thibodeux competed against students who were second year students and who were also working in precision machining after school.
During the contests, he was required to utilize  lathe and vertical milling machines to create a geared spindle. He also had to complete layout work for bolt holes on a sheet of metal, and take theory and SkillsUSA knowledge tests, all in a designated period of time.
Thibodeaux said he was surprised by his wins at both contests.
“I was nervous and didn’t know if I would win or not. I saw other people messing up and I knew that I had done pretty good, so I did get a little more confidant towards the end of the state contest,” he said.
He already has a plan for the national event which includes staying calm and double-checking his measurements.
The precision machining contest involves working with measurements that are thinner than a strand of hair, and must be within 1/3000th of specifications.
He’s already mentally preparing for the national competition, and while he hopes to be named champion again, he just wants to perform at his best level.
Bridge City High School Principal Gina Mannino said, “Blake is obviously a hard working student!  He is focused on his gaining all of the skills needed to be successful in the work force.  It is a huge honor for one of our students with the guidance of WOCCISD’s career tech folks to represent Orange County!” 
The national precision machining competition will be longer than the previous competitions, lasting approximately eight hours according to Paulino. It will begin at 6 a.m. in the morning and end at 5 p.m. Competition will include additional machines.
Contestants will have an on-site lunch break during the event, but will not be allowed to leave the area or they will be disqualified.
Only two percent of the 280,000 students involved in SkillsUSA qualify to advance to the National competition.
“I am excited and honored to represent Texas as a junior in High School,” he said.
Thibodeaux will be the third WO-S Career Center precision machinist to compete as the Texas State Champion within the last five years.

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