Just one month after he graduated, Kevin Dent probably learned one of the more important lessons of his life.
Kevin represented the State of Georgia and Thomson High School in the "Industrial Motor Control" competition at the SkillsUSA Championships.
"I learned I liked it, and I learned this is what I want to do for the rest of my life," the upcoming college freshman said last week in an interview.
It's no wonder Kevin likes industrial motor control - the competition proved he's good at it. After winning regional and state competitions earlier in the year, Kevin came in sixth nationally.
Held in Kansas City, Mo., on June 25, the Championship involved approximately 5,000 students - all state contest winners - competing in 91 different trade fields, according to the website. Students work against the clock and each other, proving their expertise in certain occupations.
Vocational teacher Barry Arrington accompanied Kevin, who competed against approximately 30 students in the "industrial motor control" category, where he had to "wire up an elevator."
And while it was not Mr. Arrington's first time to the Championships, he said he really was no help to Kevin in the competition, because he didn't know anything about industrial motor control. He said he was "up front" with Kevin and his parents, Jeff and Dee Dent, and told them he would help him fill out the paper work to get there, but that was about all he could offer.
"And so, when you don't know what to expect, it really is a great feat to get sixth in the nation. So, he really did do a jam up job, and he represented Georgia well, and then on top of that, Thomson High School was really represented good there," Mr. Arrington said.
Not knowing what to expect, and then discovering his competitors did know what to expect was the hardest part of the competition for Kevin, who describes himself as "always driven to succeed."
"I was pretty satisfied with myself after talking to the others and hearing they attended a technical high school and they had coaches that had been there before. I didn't have any of that, so I was happy with sixth," Kevin said.
Industrial motor control is wiring motors and other machines to operate, according to Mr. Arrington. He said in the real world, it is used in industrial plants where pumps and machines operate. The construction teacher described the process as punching a button and a motor comes on, then it reaches a certain temperature or certain amount of time, and it shuts off and the next motor will "kick on."
"It's not actually wiring for lights or outlets, it's more like what it says - controlling motors," Mr. Arrington said. "It's really a thought process. You have to sit back and really think about it and see how you can make this work and then that work."
Because the skill is not included in the Georgia curriculum, Mr. Arrington said it's never really been covered in class. Kevin picked it up from his father, who owns Dent Electrical Control. Kevin said his father set up a work station at their house, and Kevin worked on it every day. He entered the competition with the hopes of winning a scholarship. Which he did, but it was to IEC, and he turned it down so that he can attend Georgia Southern in the fall. There, he will take an electrical engineering course that's part of the Georgia Tech program.
"I grew up a Georgia (University of Georgia) boy, so it's a good thing that I'm going to Southern, so I won't actually have to be on the Tech campus," he said with a laugh.
In addition to the scholarship, Kevin received an offer from Georgia Power Co. to work a co-op with them, which he said he will take advantage of.
"It was an experience I couldn't ask more of, because I met people and it opened doors for me," he said.
And he doesn't plan on closing those doors. Because he came so close to winning the Championship with little experience and no coach, Kevin said he's considering returning next year for the next grade-level of competition.
"It's eating at me that I didn't win," he said. "I wasn't prepared because I didn't know what to expect. So, I'm considering going again."