Melrose student to represent PEI at national trade skills competition

Joan LeBlanc
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Melrose native Nicholas Rommens, a 2012 graduate of TRHS, along with a classmate at Holland College in Charlottetown, will be representing the province of PEI during the upcoming Skills Canada competition to be held in Toronto in early June. The two young men earned a spot on the Team PEI after taking first place in a Skills Canada provincial competition in the PEI capitol in March. Rommens is shown here with a solar powered go-kart that he and fellow TRHS classmate and friend Alden Foy built as a high school project three years ago.  LEBLANC PHOTO

MELROSE, NB – It takes a lot of skill, technological knowledge and mechanical know-how to design, program and produce state-of the-art production equipment. One local student has what it takes to do all that and his knowledge and skill have led to his being recognized by the trades industry.

Nicholas Rommens, a 2012 graduate of Tantramar Regional High School, is in the second year of the two-year electro-mechanical program at Holland College in Charlottetown, PEI. The 20 year-old student, along with fellow student Jeff Richard of Tignish, PEI, recently emerged as winners in that provinces Skills Canada Mechatronics competition held in Charlottetown. With that win, the pair has earned the right to be part of Team PEI in the mechcatronics portion of the National Skills Canada competition set for June 4-7 in Toronto.

Skills Canada and its provincial counterparts across the country are registered charities created in partnership with government, industry, educational and labour institutions with the mandate of encouraging youths to consider skills and technology-based career options. Skills Canada provincial organizations also help employers to recruit highly skilled professionals and work with industry and educational institutions to identify program that will prepare youths with appropriate work-ready skills.

The Conference Board of Canada long-term forecast in 2000 predicted that ‘with the eminent skills shortage caused by lower birth rates and an aging population, tradespeople will be in high demand. By 2020, it is estimated that Canada will be short one million workers’.

Annual Skills Canada competitions include, among others: a wide range of trades from aesthetics, hairdressing and cooking to plumbing, sheet metal works, welding, automotive service, electrical wiring, refrigeration, a variety of computer trades as well as new combined technology trades. Most costs for participating in the competitions are covered by Skills Canada, which is funded mainly by Service Canada. In-kind contributions from various companies within the trade industry also helps to support the annual competitions.

Rommens said recently at the home of his parents, Rose and Con Rommens in Melrose, that his interest in mechcatronics – which combines pneumatics, mechanics, electronics, information processing, basic electricity and motor and motion control – at TRHS under the guidance of then technology teacher Zachary Vanthournot. During their senior year he and fellow student and friend Alden Foy constructed a solar powered go-kart which garnered a lot of attention locally.

“I really got interested in that type of program with Mr. Vanthournot; he had a lot of knowledge to share,” he said.

At Holland College he has learned a lot about the vast mechcatronics trade, which prepared him well to compete in the Skills Canada competition in Charlottetown in March.

Rommens explained that during the team-of-two mechcatronics event he and Richard were required to complete the mechanical, electrical and pneumatic assembly of a part handling system according to the schematics that were provided.

In just over three hours the pair programs a PLC (programmable logic controller) to operate the system.  The PLC is the brains of the system, he said.

“There are various sensors and inputs and output hooked into the PLC. According to what input the PLC receives, it goes to complete the task. Our program had to go to an initial position where a pneumatic cylinder would extend and pick up a small plastic puck. From there it would identify whether it was a coloured or non-coloured puck…” he said, noting that was just the first part of the process.

Rommens said he was pleased to win the provincial competition and is excited to attend the national event in June, adding that he knows the competition will be stiffer there. He said although he’s set to graduate in early May, he has not yet accepted any job offers, preferring to take his time to decide which avenues he’d like to pursue.

“I’m keeping up with things constantly; in this field things are changing every day and you’ve always got to keep ahead of the game. (In this industry) there are many different types of work you can do. I enjoy doing most of it so I want to see everything that’s out there before I decide,” he said.

Winners of the national competition will also earn the right to represent Canada at the International Skills competition to be held in Brazil in 2015.


Organizations: Holland College, Skills Canada Mechatronics, Tantramar Regional High School Team PEI Conference Board of Canada Service Canada International Skills

Geographic location: Melrose, Canada, Charlottetown Tignish Toronto Brazil

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