PARIS — Oxford Hills Technical School students competed Tuesday in a series of challenges — from making whoopie pies to taking blood pressure — to demonstrate their knowledge and prepare them for the workforce.

The eighth annual Tech Challenge for hundreds of students at Oxford Hills Comprehensive and Buckfield high schools involved classes in engineering, early education, law enforcement, auto-collision repair, culinary arts and advanced communications.

Those courses are among 20 that provide state-of-the-art facilities and equipment and industry-standard instruction at the vocational school, which is housed with the Paris high school.

From 3 to 6 p.m., dozens of people visited the culinary arts room where nine students competed in three categories: desserts, pasta dishes and appetizers.

The three dessert-makers were responsible for whipping up whoopie pies. The three making appetizers and the three putting together pasta dishes created bruschetta and macaroni and cheese, respectively.

The public was invited to sample each of the nine dishes and vote for the best in each category.

Instructor Norma Smith said the Tech Challenge is the perfect way to prepare students for the intensity of a culinary job.

“When you’re working at a restaurant, you have to be ready to go and be ready to deal with stressful deadlines,” Smith said. “The students knew they had to have their food ready by 4 p.m. today or we would start without them. I think the competition helps the students prepare for that stress.”

Smith said the technical school “does a great job of giving students a chance to use tools they’ll need to be familiar with at a job.”

“That goes for culinary arts, too,” Smith said. “There are some tools, like meat slicers, that you may need to know how to use for a job, but you have no means to use them. This class gives students a chance to get their hands on those tools.”

Travis Pike, a senior at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School and a third-year student in Smith’s culinary arts class, was one of the three students who made whoopie pies.

He said what he has learned has already paid dividends in the form of a job at The Honey Badger restaurant on Route 26 in Oxford.

“The class focuses on the types of skills we’re going to need once we get a job and goes over the basics so we’re comfortable with them by the time we’re out of school,” Pike said. “It teaches us the kinds of skills we need to take our culinary career further.”

Pike, who said he has wanted to be a chef since he was 5 or 6 years old, plans to attend college to study culinary arts.

“I’m looking at Southern Maine Community College’s program right now,” Pike said. “My ultimate goal is to open my own restaurant.”

As for senior Jasmine Stensel, when she took the introduction to culinary arts course 2½ years ago, she had planned to become a mortician. However, completing the introduction convinced her to set her sights on training to be a chef.

“I’m not sure which culinary field I want to go into after school, so I’m still figuring things out right now,” said Stensel, who competed in the appetizer category.

In another area of the high school, students from the certified nursing assistant program took people’s blood pressure, while others demonstrated knowledge of other nursing skills, such as stroke assessments and checking vital signs.

At the other end of the school, advanced communications students had to create a one-minute film on a prompt they got just before filming.

The challenge wrapped up with an awards ceremony in the auditorium for students, their families and friends.

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Rylee Hart, 17, sews a zipper on the ballroom jacket she’s making for her fashion design class during the Oxford Hills Tech Challenge at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris on Tuesday. The senior is designing a six-piece clothing collection inspired by the David Bowie film “Labyrinth.” (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Rylee Hart’s six sketches are inspired by the David Bowie film “Labyrinth.” (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)

Brandon Harris, 15, builds one of three copper frames that he could choose from during his plumbing technology class at Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in Paris on Tuesday. “There is a big need in the industry,” said Harris’ instructor, Tom Cassidy. “Lots of room for young growth.”  (Daryn Slover/Sun Journal)


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