WorldSkills Calgary 2009 kicks off
900 students converge on western province to vie for gold in 45 event categories.
The opening ceremony of the 40th annual WorldSkills Competition is set to begin this evening in Calgary. A veritable trade skills Olympics, the competition promotes excellence and encourages global competency standards within the skill, trade, and technology industries. For this year’s international gathering, an estimated 900 students ages 16 to 25 from 51 countries will compete over the next four days in 45 skills categories ranging from robotics to web design, welding to cooking, and auto-body repair to landscape gardening. In total, the WorldSkills Competition draws hundreds of thousands of visitors including industry leaders, educators, delegates, and technical experts from around the world.
Of the 45 skills, the mechatronics competition is the largest event. The Canadian mechatronics competitors – Andrew Marcolin and Jamie Feenstra – secured their positions at the 2008 Skills Canada competition held in Calgary. Graduates of the Mechatronics and Mechanical Engineering Technology program at St. Clair College, they were also awarded gold medals at the regional, provincial and national competitions in 2007. Along with teams from 30 other nations, Marcolin and Feenstra will compete in this key discipline for the technologies of the future, in hopes of taking home the gold medal.
In teams of two each, the apprentices are required to construct actual mechatronic systems at the competition, place them into service and program them, as well as optimize and service them. The mechatronics teams are not made aware of the largest portion of the problem to be solved until the beginning of the respective competition day. The participants are only fully familiar with one part of the task.
Today, mechatronics is one of the biggest skills represented in the WorldSkills Competition, with approximately 30 member countries/regions taking part. The category combines skills in mechanics, pneumatics, electronically controlled systems, programming, robotics and system development. According to Sybille Bohland, mechatronics trainer at Festo, the sponsor of the mechatronics event, the demands placed upon apprentices have increased over the years.
“When the mechatronics championships first started, each team knew exactly what would await them at the competition,” she said. “The tendency was to drill the participants. This was not the approach the WorldSkills committee wanted to take. Not learning by rote, but rather genuine interdisciplinary thinking – involving electronics, mechanics and IT – should distinguish a mechatronics technician. For this reason, the contestants have to find their own way: From workstation layout and organization right on up to the actual solution, they decide everything on their own.”