Submitted by Laura Deeter, email@example.com
Spring Break. The phrase conjures images of beaches, beverages, basking in the sun, and maybe some time spent relaxing. I feel sorry for those folks! They didn’t have the opportunity to participate in the National Collegiate Landscape Competition at North Carolina State University.
The competition takes place during spring break every year (well…. In pre-C times), and travels around the country to a different host school. Past schools have included CalPoly: Pomona, Joliet Junior College, Colorado State University, Virginia Tech, Kansas State University, and Columbus State Community College. The competition includes both 2 and 4-year colleges and in the last few years, three Ohio high schools have attended as well. This year 43 schools and 525 students from around the county braved the sunny weather and 78-degree temperatures to show off their skills in all aspects of the landscape industry, visit nearly 100 companies in the career fair, spend some time exploring the campus, and at least for this little team from Ohio, appreciate all the flowers strutting their stuff around campus.
Students compete in 31 different events related to the landscape industry. There are competitions for business and sales skills, plant identification skills, equipment operation skills (can you pick up a tennis ball with a backhoe and place it in a bucket?!), LED lighting, robotics, engine repair, tree climbing, hardscape installation and landscape plant installation. Students test their knowledge in these events and are judged by professionals in the industry.
The tests are designed to be difficult. Truck and Trailer has students taking a written safety test, and then a practical test driving through an obstacle course. This year’s course saw the largest truck ever used in an event, a Ford F450 pulling a 26’ enclosed trailer around a course that required students to have a near-perfect line to avoid hitting cones denoting the edges. The judges even threw a stuffed duck into the middle of the ‘road’ for students to avoid! Maintenance Operations required one member of the team to identify 5 safety features each on a string trimmer and backpack blower, 10 safety features on a zero-turn mower, and then identify the same number of areas where regular maintenance is needed. The second team member then drove a zero-turn through an obstacle course and when halfway through, changed mowers to a standing mower to finish the course. All the identification events required students to identify plants by both their scientific and common names. The Turf and Weed Identification also included insects and diseases in addition to plants.
First-year Landscape Horticulture student Braeden Alexander and first-year Turfgrass Management student Vince Jacovetty each participated in 5 events, which is the maximum allowed per student. Braeden did Annual and Perennial ID, Woody plant ID, Flowering and Foliage ID, Truck and Trailer, and Maintenance Operations. Vince also did Truck and Trailer and Maintenance Operations as they are two-person team events, and competed in Turf and Weed Identification, Compact Excavator Operations, and Small Engine Repair. Our #smallbutmighty team might not have come home as National Champions competing against the much larger teams from Brigham Young, Michigan State, or North Carolina State University, but they are champions in my book for ‘giving up’ their spring break and for stepping outside of their comfort zones to be judged by professionals.