HARRISBURG, Pa. – Blackhawk High School vo-ag teacher Howard Leslie was in a difficult position.
The Beaver County teacher and FFA chapter adviser was the loudest cheerleader for his chapter demonstration team during the Pa. Farm Show annual competition earlier this month.
But after the Blackhawk team left the stage, Leslie was rooting silently, and perhaps just as hard, for the next team – competitors from neighboring Mohawk High School in Lawrence County.
That’s because his son, Nathan, was on the Mohawk team.
Both winners. Both FFA teams ended up at the top of the statewide competition.
Mohawk FFA, advised by Cliff Wallace, won the contest; Blackhawk was close behind in second place.
This was the fourth first-place finish for the Mohawk students since 1985, Wallace said. “These kids did such a good job.”
Last year, Mohawk’s team finished in second place.
In addition to Nathan Leslie, Mohawk’s demonstration team members included Jason Spieker, Josh Shuffstall and Paul Farone.
All four were winners outside of the demonstration contest, too: Each received the Keystone state FFA degree at the state FFA convention the day before the demonstration contest.
For ‘dummies.’ The Mohawk team took a page from popular how-to books and named their demonstration, “Logsplitters for Dummies.” But the effort was anything but dumb – the team created the idea of building a logsplitter from scratch.
Students purchased components from local suppliers to build a working splitter. During the competition, the speakers showed how hydraulic force works to increase mechanical advantages. At the end of the demonstration, the students actually started the engine and split a log on stage.
Blackhawk presentation. The Blackhawk FFA team included Zachary Haffey, brothers Carl Hunter and Paul Hunter, and Stacy Campbell.
Their demonstration, “Not Your Father’s Woodshed,” described and built an outdoor storage shed with winged work areas that slide in and out for use.
The students developed the plans from scratch and built the shed for the competition.
In 2002, the Blackhawk team finished third.
About the competition. Each team is composed of four speakers who must all share speaking time on stage. Each presentation runs between 15 and 20 minutes.
Alternates help behind the scenes and also learn the parts in case a primary speaker cannot attend.
The Mohawk team, for example, starts in September by choosing a subject and developing a script. It meets twice a week for two months to complete the project and refine the presentation.
Other local teams. It was a western Pennsylvania year, as teams from the western tier commanded seven of the top 10 spots, from the field of 18 teams.
A team from Berlin Brothers Valley High School, Somerset County, finished in fourth, with Wilmington Area High School, Lawrence County, close behind in fifth.
Two teams from Union Middle-High School in New Castle, Lawrence County, went neck and neck, finishing in seventh and eighth.
A team from Moniteau High School in Butler County finished in 10th place.
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