Building a wall goes far beyond the making of it, and for junior Mack O’Dell, masonry got him national recognition.
O’Dell competed in the International Bricklaying Competition, held Feb. 3 in Las Vegas at the Masonry Madness Arena.
“I really enjoyed being there, and I was confident in what I was doing,” O’Dell said. “My instructor taught me to know what I was doing when I did it.”
O’Dell qualified for the International Competition after placing seventh in the SkillsUSA Carpentry National Competition held in Kentucky June 22-26.
“Mack started with me last year,” said Nacoma Oehme, Fort Scott Community College (FSCC) Masonry Instructor. “He stays focused and works really hard during class.”
Oehme helped O’Dell prepare for the competition by assigning him tasks each with a varying degree of difficulty.
“Mack started training for the competition in November of last year,” Oehme said. “I gave him different projects to build, each one being a little harder than the last.”
After a mix up in the contest categories, O’Dell ended up the youngest in his competition.
“I was supposed to be in the first-year apprentice, but I got put in second year and they had already ordered the materials,” O’Dell said.
By the time he had figured out he was categorized incorrectly, he was not allowed to change to first-year apprentice. Instead, he had to compete against seven other competitors who were all older than him.
“[The other competitors] all had jobs,” O’Dell said. “They weren’t in the certification program, they were working every day, and were sponsored by companies. [The next youngest competitor] was 21 at least,” O’Dell said.
However, despite being the youngest competitor, O’Dell was not bothered.
“I’m the youngest in my [FSCC masonry] class. You just know everyone is older than you, so I wasn’t fazed,” O’Dell said.
After tying for first place, O’Dell was awarded second by a tiebreaker.
O’Dell spends the first two hours of his school day at the Career and Technical Education Center of Crawford County. He has been enrolled in masonry since his sophomore year. Masonry is taught by Oehme and is a dual-credit class.
According to O’Dell, one of the good things about the masonry class is the real-life experience it gives students.
“It’s different than going to a classroom everyday. [It’s a] hands-on program,” O’Dell said. “You learn one thing at a time, but you see it developing more than you would in a text book. You actually get out, do something and apply it right away.”
In agreement with O’Dell, Oehme believes allowing students hands-on practice is better than having them sit in a classroom.
“The difference [between a college dual-credit class and a high-school class] is that the students get the freedom of adults,” Oehme said, “They get hands-on training and get out of it what they put in it.”
In addition to competing, O’Dell has been doing construction work for English teacher Lyn Schultze.
With the help of another student, O’Dell constructed a wall, hung oriented strand board and sheetrock and finished with installing insulation in a garage.
Schultze was pleased with the outcome.
“I’d say his work ethic is outstanding. He’s honest, and he is going to be a huge success some day,” Schultze said. “In my opinion, he already is.”