Pfannkuch wins at state, moves on to nationals

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

This past weekend, Braden Pfannkuch, son of David and Alyssa, and senior at Concordia R-2 High School and the Lex La-Ray Technical Center, in Lexington, won a spot to compete at the SkillsUSA National Championships in June. He won a gold medal for cabinetmaking technical information, a silver for technical spelling and a gold for cabinetmaking -- construction. It was his construction of a false cabinet front with face frame, drawer and door at the SkillsUSA State Championship that helped him earn his spot at nationals.

This isn't Pfannkuch's first year competing, however. He also built an entry at last year's state championships, but unfortunately came away without a prize. Therefore, when he won this year, it came as a complete surprise.

"I was thinking I'd get fifth or sixth. ... Saturday morning, they called the names of guys I was working next to and then called my name," he said. "It felt like the wind was sucked out of me, and I felt like I was floating."

It was an early start for Pfannkuch and the other competitors. They first drove to Jefferson City where they switched to another bus and finished the rest of the journey to St. Louis. For cabinetmaking technical info and the technical spelling, which are written exams, he first had to compete at the district level.

"To get to state for my written test, it was all online," said Pfannkuch.

When it came to practical cabinetmaking, however, that was up to his instructors. They choose two people to send to state, he said, adding the instructors choose students they believe have the most potential.

The practical competition started at 9 a.m. Friday and ended at 3 p.m. The student builders had a half-hour break for lunch, according to Pfannkuch.

"They give you just enough materials to do it right. There's very little margin for error," he explained. "You have to make sure all the cuts are correct and when you assemble it, you make sure everything is square."

Judges were able to observe the competitors throughout the build process, but in the end didn't know who created what cabinet piece, said Pfannkuch.

"Some of the judges were observing but didn't give any remarks, and at the end everyone's project was put on a table with just a number to be free from bias," he noted.

Along with the practical build, he had to cut a layout sheet for all the parts before starting.

"You don't just start cutting. You have blueprints and figure it all out," he said.

In the end, Pfannkuch received a score of 986 out of 1,000 points. He is now fully into preparing for nationals.

"I'm going over construction and practicing cutting out layout sheets. I'm also working on my math skills. The measurements come down to fractions of an inch and you don't get a calculator. So, if there is a mistake, you have to be able to make a change on the fly," he said.

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