Mechatronics team wins SkillsUSA championship

GREENVILLE — In what has become an annual occurrence, the School District of Pickens County is once again home to the South Carolina state champion mechatronics team.
Mechatronics programs teach students to combine mechanical and electrical engineering principles and since 2004, the team from Pickens County has won first place 7 times at the statewide SkillsUSA competition held in Greenville.
This year’s team members, Russell Brinson and Austin Black, both seniors at Pickens High School and students at the Pickens County Career and Technology Center, are thrilled to be able to continue the tradition of success.
“I really enjoyed the experience at state competitions,” said Black. “To me, it is a big leap into my future because being a state champion in mechatronics looks great on my resume to employers across the state.”
His teammate shares his excitement.
“This year was definitely a lot tougher than last year since the troubleshooting was not a part of the competition and that is one of the major factors of Mechatronics,” said Brinson. “However, Austin and I went over everything we could to prepare for this competition and still ended up with first place.”
“I was exuberant when team 7 was called as the first place winner and we hope to do just as well at the national competition in Kansas City,” continued Brinson.
For Hank Hutto, Mechatronics Instructor at the new Pickens County Career and Technology Center, the success of his students in competition is directly related to their hard work and dedication.
“I think the biggest reason Austin and Russell succeed in their field and competition is they have a ‘can-do attitude’ and don’t know how to quit,” Hutto said. “They take a challenge and turn it into an everyday routine with little, if any, problems.”
In addition to the classroom instruction that Russell and Austin receive from Mr. Hutto, both student are currently enrolled in a cooperative education program with JR Automation Inc. The Pickens company that specializes in designing and producing automated equipment for manufacturers is offering Austin and Russell hands on technical experience that not only benefits their education, but also helped them stand out during the SkillsUSA competition.
This type of collaboration between the School District of Pickens County and local industry excites Ray Farley, Executive Director of Alliance Pickens.
“JR Automation has quickly developed a top-notch cooperative program for Pickens County high school students interested is gaining practical experience in mechatronics and industrial electronics, much in the same way that United Tool and Mold has with students interested in gaining practical experience in machine tool technology,“ Farley said. 
“Russell and Austin’s success speaks to the magic that can occur with and between the Pickens County Career and Technology Center and Pickens County manufacturers,” continued Farley.