World class competitors in automotive technology train at PSU 

When someone wants to be the best in the world in automotive technology, they come to train at Pittsburg State University. And only Pittsburg State. 

That’s why Ian Gregor of Colorado Springs, Colorado, is on campus this week: he’s preparing for the WorldSkills competition, to be held in Shanghai, China, in October, in a facility with top-notch technology under the direction of expert faculty. 

He’s the latest competitor in a string of them over the past 20 years to come to Pittsburg State to train in the Department of Automotive Technology — recognized by industry as offering one of the best academic programs in the nation, but also the only training facility for the WorldSkills automotive technology competitors from the U.S. 

Many of those competitors have finished WorldSkills as medalists, including three PSU students, said Scott Norman, a PSU professor who also serves as the USA Technical Delegate to WorldSkills. 

"Think of the WorldSkills Competition as the 'Olympics' for the skilled trades — automotive technology, welding, car painting, cabinetmaking, graphic design, printing, heavy vehicle technology, electronics, autobody repair, web technologies, and concrete construction," Norman said.   

Every two years, competitors from around the world come together to pit their skills in more than 60 content areas in hopes of gold, silver, or bronze medals. To qualify for a position on the WorldSkills USA team, competitors must first medal in the SkillsUSA national competition.  

"In automotive technology, competitors are diagnosing and repairing “bugs” given to vehicles by WorldSkills staff. Alignment might be off, or a vehicle might not crank or not start, for example," Norman said.

Pittsburg State has long had an affiliation with the competition: in addition to Norman’s position as a delegate, the current USA WorldSkills Automotive Technology Expert is Associate Professor Mike Elder, and the past WorldSkills Expert is retired Associate Professor Ron Downing.   

Elder, who has taught at PSU since 2011, has more than three decades of experience as a high school automotive teacher and years of experience maintaining a school district’s fleet of vehicles. 

Downing has about the same amount of experience working in industry. Both of them know exactly what Gregor will face in the competition. 

Tuesday, they were putting him through the paces of alignment using a state-of-the-art diagnostic tool equipped with cameras and a flat screen monitor. Later this week, they’ll move to other vehicles in the university’s lab fleet to guide him in diagnosing and repairing other “bugs” they planted. 

“People here at Pittsburg State have held a lot of high posts in the WorldSkills organization, and that experience is really valuable,” Gregor said. “Also, me having access to the latest and greatest to train on is important, because that’s what they’ll have at the WorldSkills competition.” 

Other WorldSkills competitors who trained at PSU: 

Paul Danenberg: 2019 Kazan, Russia (Medallion for Excellence) 

Johnathan Robertson: 2017 Abu Dhabi, UAE (PSU Student) 

Michael Mullen: 2015 Sao Paulo, Brazil (Automotive Technology Competition) 

Dustin Mortsolf: 2015 Sao Paulo, Brazil (Heavy Vehicle Technology Competition) 

Michael Mullen: 2014 Bogota, Columbia (Silver Medal - WorldSkills Americas) 

Kieron Kohlmann: 2013 Leipzig, Germany (Medallion for Excellence) 

Kieron Kohlmann: 2012 Sao Paulo, Brazil (Gold Medal - WorldSkills Americas) 

Daniel Lehmkuhl: 2011 London, England (Medallion for Excellence) 

Daniel Lehmkuhl: 2010 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Silver Medal - WorldSkills Americas) 

Jack Frederick: 2009 Calgary, Canada (Silver Medal & Best in Nation - PSU Student)       

Rusty Brown: 2003 Gallen, Switzerland (Silver Medal & Best in Nation - PSU Student) 

Joshua Boschee: 2001 Seoul, Korea (Silver Medal & Best in Nation) 

Timothy Dearing: 1999 Montreal, Canada (Medallion for Excellence - PSU Student)

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