December 5, 2023

By Don Redmond

Published June 6, 2022 at 11:51 am

Two Niagara College students – one from Grimsby, the other from Niagara-on-the-Lake – did their school proud at the recent Skills Canada National Competition in Vancouver as they both landed on the medal podium.

Their two disciples couldn’t have been further apart – computer games and welding – given a sense of the breadth of varied programs at the college.

Grimsby resident Matt Mackie, who will graduate from the Game Development program later this month, won a silver in the 3D digital Game Art competition, while Welding Technician student Jake Boekestyn (Niagara-on-the-Lake) won bronze in the welding competition.

For Boekestyn, who describes himself as “pretty competitive by nature,” the three days he spent demonstrating his welding skills were ones he won’t forget.

It was literally a race to the finish for Mackie, who was tasked with 3D modeling, texturing, and animating a tortoise and modeling and texturing a chariot for a fictitious racing game.

“In the design brief, they went into detail about the backstory [and] why you were making these things,” Mackie said. “So [it’s as if] you’re handed a document from someone in a studio [and told this is] your task to complete. They gave us a fake game idea: These chariots are being piloted by these tortoises and you had to tie the two together.”

In the end, Mackie estimated he did easily a week’s worth of work in two nine-hour days.

“I can’t say enough about how proud I am of Matt’s accomplishment,” says Charles Kopun, associate dean of Media. “He showed incredible poise in dealing with every challenge he was presented with competing for the first time at the national level.”

Boekestyn was required to weld small plates together, which were later X-ray tested and bend tested to gauge the quality of the weld in the joint. The following day, he was tasked with reading a set of blueprints and making a pressure vessel using plates. The pieces were then pressure tested, first using water pressure and then applying up to 1,000 psi of pressure.

On the final day of the competition, Boekestyn’s tig welding abilities were tested when he had to work with aluminum and stainless pieces.

Jeff Murrell, associate dean in the School of Trades, said facing off against more experienced welders–and finishing in the top three–is a testament to Boekestyn’s dedication to the trade and the “high quality of the educational experiences all our students receive in the welding program in the School of Trades.

The Skills Canada National Competition (NSNC) is the only national, multi-trade and technology competition for students and apprentices in the country. This year, 350 students and apprentices from across Canada competed for the title of national champion in more than 45 skill areas. Each qualified for SCNC after winning gold in their province or territory.

Grimsby native Matt Mackie, left, who is graduating from Niagara College’s Game Development program this spring, placed second in the 3D Digital Game Competition (Photo courtesy of Skills Canada) while Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Jake Boekestyn (Niagara-on-the-Lake) won bronze in the welding competition.

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