TCAT student wins national competition

Andrew Shotwell, left, stands next to Aviation Maintenance instructor Steven Robbins.

Andrew Shotwell found himself surprised when he found out that he had won first place in the SkillsUSA nationally for aviation maintenance.

At first, he even thought his instructor, Steven Robbins, was “messing” with him.

“I was shocked,” Shotwell said. “I really wasn’t expecting to win.”

Shotwell was named the gold medal winner in his field of aviation maintenance last month during nationals. He qualified for the nationals after taking first place in the state in April.

He is the first student to win first place in the category for TCAT-Morristown and the first to medal in the category in almost a decade.

Robbins said it is a big deal in his industry. He was able to win over the “big boys” in the competition like Wichita State University Tech.

“They place every year,” he said.

They also placed second and third this year. But behind Shotwell.

The SkillsUSA national competition was held online this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Shotwell had to conduct real-world programs that were videotaped and sent to judges.

Darren Aldred, coach for TCAT-Morristown SkillsUSA, said three students were chosen for nationals from TCAT-Morristown and two were able to compete.

Shotwell competed, along with Cody Hurley, who was chosen for welding.

Shotwell set up a station at the airport and Hurley set up his competition station at the school.

Alred said he was blown away with Shotwell winning first place.

“It’s absolutely awesome,” he said. “It means we have the best student in nation in that category. It’s amazing.”

The programs consisted of a research element, but others included things such as airplane brake replacement or sheet metal work. There were seven one-hour programs and the research part took almost an hour and a half.

“Most of it was hands on,” Shotwell said.

He said there were some struggles with doing the competition virtually. The school had to bring in a proctor and there was a lot of setup involved.

Shotwell said he would have loved to have been able to be at the actual in-person competition, which was set to be in Atlanta this year. He said he would have liked to have met the other competitors.

“It’s a little disappointing it was held virtually,” he said.

Shotwell graduated in December and already had a job working at Smoky Mountain Aeroplanes a year before he graduated. He continues to work there. He also works as a skydive instructor in Pigeon Forge.

Robbins said he was proud of his former student. But, also he was shocked himself knowing the competition Shotwell faced.

“I was amazed,” he said.