SouthernTech in the News!

Oklahoma's first competition for heavy equipment operation students took place Thursday in Ardmore.

Students from across the state put their skills to the test for future careers in multiple industries, including construction and utilities.

"It was a little bit harder than I thought, just because there's more people watching," said SouthernTech student Jackson Grace.

Participants competed in three timed challenges.

"First, we have to get into it and make sure everything was okay, then turn it on and then we had to drive it to the cones. And on the cones there are tennis balls,  and you have to angle the blade right where you knock off the tennis balls without knocking the cone over," Grace explained.

On the mini-excavator, students picked up tires and then placed them in a circle.

"After you go through all of the tires, you have to pick up a ball and put it in a trash can, but you're timed," said competitor Sadie Rice from Kiamichi Tech in Hugo.

The contest gave students a chance to build skills for their future careers.

"We have a lot of great industry partners and of course everyone is hiring, building and growing, which is awesome," said SouthernTech heavy equipment instructor Brian Brown. "There are just a lot of opportunities for job placement."

For some, working with these machines runs in the family.

"My grandpa and my dad own their own dozer business, so I've been around it all of my life," Rice said. "I've come to really enjoy working around this. It's very fun and very rewarding."

First-place winners in Thursday's event will advance to the national SkillsUSA competition.