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Woodworking Students Carve Way To Another Competition

Lightning has struck twice for the WoodLINKS, USA program at the Southern Virginia Higher Education Center (SVHEC). In only its second year, Halifax County High School students in the dual enrollment program at the SVHEC have again been selected to participate in a highly competitive woodworking competition.

Rising junior Doug Stillwell, and recent high school graduates Patrick Prophet and Kenton Beard will be representing Halifax County at the prestigious WoodLINKS, USA/International Woodworkers Association (IWF) competition.

The national competition focuses on the design and marketing of Ready to Assemble (RTA) wooden products and will be held in Atlanta, Georgia Aug. 25-28.

To gain entry to this competition, Stillwell, Prophet and Beard had to go through a rigorous application process that included submitting a marketing plan, technical drawings, assembly instructions, a one page description, a speech, and photos. The competition was fierce since only five teams were selected from the entire country.

Stillwell, Prophet, and Beard will be competing against students from across the United States and will be judged on a combination of their submitted woodworking piece, their written materials and their public speaking abilities.

“The curriculum that the Product Design & Development program has adopted, allows students to gain exposure to math, biology, physics, geometry, English, marketing, and business,” said WoodLINKS Instructor Clint Johnson. “Through this unique competition, our students were able to employ the skills that they had been developing during the semester.  The skills that these students are learning will provide them with an advantage, when it comes to obtaining highly sought after positions in the industry.”

SVHEC Director of Research & Development David Kenealy echoed Johnson’s comments, “The WoodLINKS organization has demonstrated through the format of this competition their fundamental understanding of the complex skill set required from the emerging employee and/or entrepreneur to meaningfully contribute to the economic health of the USA. To make something with efficiency in today’s technologically advanced society involves developing competencies within each of the diverse categories these students will be judge.

The students who have been selected to participate in this competition have had an excellent educational experience and have responded in exemplary fashion,” Kenealy said.

After Halifax County students won a national competition last year with “The Chair,” this years’ students will be competing with a demilune table they’ve named “Une Joue.” The name is French for “half moon,” and was chosen because a traditional demilune table is a half moon shape.

But “Une Joue,” like the Halifax County WoodLINKS program, is anything but traditional. Stillwell, Prophet and Beard’s table has been upgraded to a more contemporary design. This sleek table is made of natural Oak and features curved, tapered legs with a customizable veneer top.

Because this is a Ready to Assemble competition, the table must travel in pieces and be ready to assemble with limited time and instructions. To give themselves an edge, students are using a unique system of magnets that allows the table to snap together quickly without the use of extra tools, hardware or fasteners. 

“The concept of ready to assemble home furnishings is phenomenal. When the end user is responsible for putting together the piece, the cost is typically lower.  However, the majority of ready to assemble pieces are accompanied by a large assortment of hardware.  With the customer in mind, we decided to utilize the strength of magnetic force to hold this particular table together.  The result was an extremely user-friendly table that is impressively strong.  We believe that this utilization of magnets will revolutionize the “RTA” industry,” Johnson said.

This year’s table is the perfect follow-up to the success of last year’s WoodLINKS students John Barry and McKenzie Stevens who won first place in the AWFS Woodworking competition in Las Vegas with “The Chair.”
Explaining why the table was chosen Prophet said, “After ‘The Chair’ last year we had to decide what to do next. We talked about it and decided to do a table to go with the chair.”

This was Prophet’s second year participating in the WoodLINKS program and Beard’s and Stillwell’s first.
The students are excited about their upcoming trip to the WoodLINKS/IWF Competition, and whatever happens there, they already feel a great sense of accomplishment.

“I’m excited that we did something that got accepted. Our work wasn’t for nothing,” Stillwell said. “I’m really proud of the students,” Johnson said. “We set a goal, they worked really hard, and achieved the goal. They were very motivated to do it.”

“We have to thank The Southern Virginia Higher Education Center, the Halifax Educational Foundation, Halifax County High School, Danville Community College, Dr. Mel Stanley, and Mr. Albert Randolph for their support of this vision over the past two years.  Without these people and organizations, we would not have the opportunity to expose these students to these types of experiences. We also have to thank Blakely Swanson for taking the photos for us again this year. His support continues to be a key to our success,” the WoodLINKS instructor said.

The dual enrollment program WoodLINKS program focuses on Product Design and Development and is open to sophomore, junior, and senior students. Community college courses in Product Design & Development, offered in partnership with Danville Community College, are also offered at the SVHEC.