Tech Shoot-Out in Portland

High school techies put their skills to the test during the Maine Boatbuilders Show’s second annual Trouble Shooting Contest.

Shoot Out Winners

Billy McIntyre and Serena Cobleigh, both students at Portland Arts & Technology High School, were first place winners in the Troubleshooting Contest.Mark Pillsbury

It was noon on Saturday of St. Patrick's Day weekend and deep within the Portland Yacht Services main building a small crowd gathered around a riser, behind which sat a pile of trophies and plaques. In front, a group of 14 high school students stood awkwardly, as only teen-agers can, and listened as the guest speaker admonished them to work hard, study diligently, pursue their passions.

“How many of you read all about the latest technology?” she asked. One of their instructors raised his hand. The kids looked around nervously, hands deep in pockets.

OK, time to get on with the awards, then.

The prize giving was the culmination of the morning-long second annual Trouble Shooting Contest, the Maine Boatbuilders Show's investment in making sure there will be a new generation of skilled tradesmen to man the shops, yards, and docks up and down the Maine coast (see a photo gallery from the show). The Universal Technical Institute was also a sponsor.

Seven two-student teams spent the morning poring over electrical equipment laden dashboards and engine powerheads that all had at least one element that was malfunctioning (see a photo gallery of them at work). The tricky part, according to competition judge and PYS outboard technician Kyle Jacobs, was that the kids had to first determine what wasn't working—there was no customer to point them in a specific direction—and then figure out how to fix it. The students also faced a written test.

The 14 contestants hailed from marine trade programs at Portland Arts & Technology High School, Maine Region Ten Technical High School in Brunswick, and Mid-Coast School of Technology in Rockland.

Universal Technical Institute scholarships were given to the three top performing teams, along with tool sets from Snap-on Tools.

Once the scores were tallied, Portland Arts & Technology students Serena Cobleigh and Billy McIntire, both of Windham, collected the big prize, $1,000 scholarships to UTI. Trophies in hand, they stood for pictures, but were eager to get on to the soon-to-be-delivered pizza, the real reward for a morning of hard work.