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April 1, 2016 3:00 AM CDT

BHS students win state masonry competition

Davis and Steward won Mississippi’s SkillsUSA competition


The art of masonry dates back over 6,000 years, and today it continues to mainstay in construction – an area where two Alcorn Career and Technology Center students excel.

Ethan Davis and Gibson Stewart recently won Mississippi’s SkillsUSA competition in masonry in Jackson and are now setting their sights on the national competition in Kentucky this summer.

Building a wall out of brick and mortar, the duo worked as a team to build the two-sided wall standing 3-feet high. The Biggersville High School students, a tenth grader and junior, respectively, were the only team to complete their wall, finishing in two hours and 47 minutes out of an allowed three hours and half allowed. To grade the wall, the judges look at accuracy to the blueprint, how plum or level, how square, the height, completion, cleanliness of the wall, and mortar spaces. They also receive points for their resume, for being in uniform, and for answering judges’ questions correctly.

“As a contractor myself, I understand the quality of the work these boys’ performed,” said Tim Bradley, ACTC instructor. “Ethan lays brick like a seasoned mason, and the two work well together. Gibson does a good job keeping materials handy for Ethan and keeping the mortar at a good consistency.”

These two first cousins, according to Stewart who is oldest, work together as one rather than as individuals. “Working together and staying on task is the key to success,” Stewart said. “We work out our plans ahead of time and decide what we are going to do, the quickest route to get it completed.” He said they talk calmly to each other and understand what each expects.

Before they became a team for their first competition or entered their classes in construction and carpentry at ACTC, the cousins knew many of the ins and outs of their perspective jobs on the team. Davis has worked the last three years in the summer with his dad and learned to lay brick. Stewart also helped his uncle as a laborer hauling brick, mixing, and maintaining the consistency of the mortar. The boys credit Tim Bradley, their instructor at ACTC for teaching them to read blue prints and to use the schematics to where to begin and how to efficiently and effectively build a brick wall for competition.

The family ties make this win sweeter for Davis. “I’m proud of it because I wanted to make my family proud of me. This is something I have learned for years from my dad, and I feel like I wouldn’t be where I am today without his help.”

The high school sophomore said the most difficult part of the project is keeping the brick clean and plum or level. For Stewart, the hardest part is keeping the mortar at the right consistency. Davis said he doesn’t get stressed out, however. “I guess I don’t because I know how to do it really well. I usually go in and look at everybody and sum them up and look at the other projects occasionally while I’m working, but I don’t let them get in my head.”

Davis said he enjoys laying brick because it’s fun and he likes watching a project take shape knowing he constructed it. Stewart said he enjoys the challenge and working with his cousin. “The competition is a good bonding experience for Ethan and me,” Stewart said. “We make a better team because we are cousins and have worked together on the job during the summers. I’m proud we’ve made it this far and are going to try to do our best at nationals.”

For the first two competitions, Bradley secured contributions from local businesses to provide practice materials for the boys. “We have been fortunate to receive help from Corinth Brick, Ferrell’s Home and Outdoor, Southern Serendipity J.C. Bath Company, Smith Home Center, The Door Shop, and Tony Youngblood. “They helped make this success possible.”

Going to Kentucky and further honing those skills is going to take practice, Bradley said. “We will be fundraising to help pay for practice materials and trip expenses."

Anyone interested in contributing to the trip, can contact ACTC 662-286-7727.

About the Author

Sherry Shawl is a high school teacher at Alcorn School District.

This article was originally published in the Daily Corinthian. This content has been republished with the permission of the publisher.


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